Whose Life Is It Anyway? (1981) Poster

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10/10
Excellent Character Study...Highly Effective But Not Pretentious or Preachy!
TonyKissCastillo11 February 2016
Events in your life can shape and change you...sometimes radically. Before my heart attack and triple bypass I rated this 8*. Now, it is a most resounding 10*! In "Whose Life" the life-altering event for sculptor Ken Harrison (Richard Dreyfuss in an outstanding performance) was a traffic accident that left him quadriplegic.

About 6 months after the fact, Harrison begins to to realize that not only his sculptures, but his perception of the world, its interpretation and his own self-image had been shaped through the use of his hands. Of course, his hands "died" on the day of the accident, and therefore, Harrison concludes, so did he.

The film focuses on both his day to day struggle to cope with his unbearable condition and his confrontation with the hospital administration, or at least with its decision-making chief medical officer, Dr. Emerson (John Cassavetes-turning in a fine performance), who is intent on keeping Harrison in the hospital and under its care, against his will, even if that means declaring Harrison incompetent.

Christine Lahti also has a supporting role. The film is highly effective but not pretentious or preachy in the least.

10*STARS*.....ENJOY/DISFRUTELA!

Any comments, questions or observations, in English or Español, are most welcome!
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10/10
Excellent Character Study...Highly Effective But Not Pretentious or Preachy!
KissEnglishPasto2 August 2016
.........................................................from Pasto,Colombia...Via: L.A. CA., CALI, COLOMBIA and ORLANDO, FL

Events in your life can shape and change you...sometimes radically. Before my heart attack and triple bypass I rated this 8*. Now, it is a most resounding 10*! In "Whose Life" the life-altering event for sculptor Ken Harrison (Richard Dreyfuss in an outstanding performance) was a traffic accident that left him quadriplegic.

About 6 months after the fact, Harrison begins to to realize that not only his sculptures, but his perception of the world, its interpretation and his own self-image had been shaped through the use of his hands. Of course, his hands "died" on the day of the accident, and therefore, Harrison concludes, so did he.

The film focuses on both his day to day struggle to cope with his unbearable condition and his confrontation with the hospital administration, or at least with its decision-making chief medical officer, Dr. Emerson (John Cassavetes-turning in a fine performance), who is intent on keeping Harrison in the hospital and under its care, against his will, even if that means declaring Harrison incompetent.

Christine Lahti also has a supporting role. The film is highly effective but not pretentious or preachy in the least.

10* STARS*.....ENJOY/DISFRUTELA!

Any comments, questions or observations, in English or Español, are most welcome!
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9/10
Extraordinary compelling, unforgettable, frequently painful, yet intriguing!
Nazi_Fighter_David12 September 1999
Warning: Spoilers
Ken Harrison (Richard Dreyfuss) is an artist... His fingers make things of beauty...

When he lived through a car accident that left him paralyzed from the neck down, we understood why he wanted to be left alone to die...

Ken moved from a world of life and creation, to an empty world where he can't move even a single finger...

Lying under the white sheets of the hospital bed, he is subjected to stress under the shock of his another reality... The artist has gone... The creator of an art expressed in all its different dimensions, round in relief, imagery, symbolism, all vanished in seconds...

But his human spirit remains alive under the severity, the compulsion, the threats of his new reality...

Ken was a cunning sculptor, skillful, ingenious in the use of his mind and hands... He is now charming, capable to seduce the whole nursing staff by pillow talk...

The movie deals with many hypothesis about the right to die...

Does a patient have the right to choose to die? Does he have the right to refuse life-sustaining medical treatment, even if that means certain immediate or accelerated death?

Doctor Emerson (John Cassavetes) wants to prolong the life of Ken... He wants him to live his disability as quadriplegic even feeling so down... For him, everybody has their own struggles in life...

Richard Dreyfuss is superb as Ken Harrison, a quick moving mind, true and clever, who displays unpleasant, troublesome reality... He relies on his intelligence and energy rather than his looks and charisma to win his fight, his right to die...

John Cassavetes i excellent in his role, intense as Dr. Emerson, the Chief of Staff... He plays the role with personality, ability and style dealing with the problem with absolute professionalism...

Christine Lahti (Dr. Clare Scott) is very appealing, too powerful, tempting and charming, tolerant and understanding, along with big heart... She is convincing, closer than most to truth or at least to the subjective reality of her patient...

The film is extraordinary compelling, unforgettable, frequently painful, yet intriguing!

What we learn about ethics and how to make decisions may be useful in this real world... The path taken really does transform the meaning...
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Great Performances
lbinstock12 June 2004
This film is among the best of all time. I've seldom seen a movie in which all actors -- from the star to the smallest bit player -- deliver such forceful, realistic performances. I felt as if I were actually in that hospital room with Ken Harrison et al. While the film, which is about a sculpture who becomes a quadriplegic in a car accident and then decides to die rather than live life in that condition, has a seemingly depressing plot line, it is actually uplifting. Richard Dreyfus has the remarkable ability to infuse the main character with humor as well as sadness. It is a tribute to the director, writers, and actors that this movie, which could have easily been a maudlin weepy, turned out to be a paean to the indomitable human spirit.
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8/10
Thought provoking
thniels15 November 2002
This thought provoking and philosophically painful. Most people have an opinion on euthanasia and how they would react should they end up helplessly crippled and so does Ken Harrison in this movie. But do we really mean what we say? What is really special about this movie is that it does not take a stand at the end. It lets us wonder. Does he actually change his mind as the good doctor suggests he might?

I for one, dread a decision like this one.
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8/10
Very interesting movie
HunterDK28 November 2001
I would say that this movie is very interesting.

May doctors let a patient die? Is it right to keep a person who wants to die alive?

These are two questions which this movie handles, and you have the possibility to agree or not. But wether you like the idea of letting a patient die or not, the movie really makes you think about all the angles in this case.

I would rate it 8/10.
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A Brilliant Movie
Brendan-1314 February 1999
This masterpiece is one of my all time favourite films. Richard Dreyfuss plays an unforgettable role as the exuberant and creative sculptor who becomes paralysed from the neck down after a car accident and argues for his right to be discharged from hospital so that he can end his life.

The entire cast provide great performances including Christine Lahti, John Cassavetes, Bob Balaban but it is Richards Dreyfuss which makes this film as brilliant as it is. He takes you on a journey where the viewer actually feels pain when he is in pain, we feel sad when he is sad and laugh when he laughs.

Although the movie is about the right to die, it is not at all depressing. It is a movie filled with raw emotion, love and humour. Definitely a must see movie
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10/10
A stunning and emotional masterpiece.
jacie12 December 1999
Years before Dr. Kevorkian brought the right to die into the national spotlight and made it a subject of public debate, Richard Dreyfuss's magnificent performance and Brian Clark's wonderful screenplay made the most cogent and realistic fictional argument I've seen on the issue. Dreyfuss is, without a doubt, a stellar performer -- in everything from "The Goodbye Girl" to "Mr. Holland's Opus," he consistently excels, but watching this movie again, I was flabbergasted by his ability. Using nothing but his head, he managed to evoke a stunning range of emotions. In my opinion, this is one of the better movies made in the last twenty years of the twentieth century.
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10/10
A Wonderful Movie...
bama11113 September 2000
A brilliant performance by Richard Dreyfuss...and wonderful performances by Christine Lahti and John Cassavetes and Bob Balaban and Kenneth McMillan. I've watched this movie a number of times since it came out and it never fails to move me. Since I don't, and never have, worked in a hospital I can only believe that some of the events are a bit far fetched [jamming in the basement and smoking dope, for example] but getting past them, you have a riveting story. A battle for a human life. He wants to be allowed to die and they are determined to keep him alive. There are many wonderful moments, especially the hearing, that express the notion that both/neither is right/wrong. But whatever side you take you can't be disappointed by this moving story and these moving performances. In my opinion, 10/10.
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9/10
Pleading Death
tributarystu14 July 2007
Sane people can have the desire to die, it's an indisputable fact. In arguing why, "Whose Life Is It Anyway?" tries to balance a dispute so personal, that it seems bound to fail. And yet, it does not! The story features a sculptor who is left paralyzed after a wrecking car accident and ends up in a most undesirable situation. His status renders him incapable of being the person he once was and found in the impossibility to reconcile his former self with his current condition, Ken Harrison decides to die.

His quest is, most obviously, a difficult one. The doctors do not support him in his decision and in this debate - doctor::patient - it is where the film conjures the most solid arguments in its plea. Going beyond the usual ethical components of this choice, the film manages to assert a very personal position to the main protagonist, which therefore makes the whole experience one of anguish on a very personal level. And this is where it makes its point: there is no universal justification for death and the world has no right to interfere in the sphere of anyone's consciousness. Perhaps it is at times overly dramatic and it treats the subject with tantalizing care, but in the end, I felt the film balanced all the facts concerned in a convincing and compelling way, vividly portraying the painful demise of a strong mind in face of the cruelty of destiny. It might seem to take a stance on every man's right to choose his fate, but in the matter at hand (whether death by will is right or wrong) it emits no absolute messages.

Beyond everything, Richard Dreyfuss sustains an authentic feeling of intellectual pain, in his convincing performance. And it is only in pain and suffering that we can look into ourselves to understand how much we are willing to bear in this world and what makes us be. Suicide I do not believe a solution, but then again, I am on the other side of the river, where things seem filthy green, rather than nothing at all. We are so alone in death and pain, that nobody can truly claim to understand us.
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9/10
Brilliant Movie
jan-5726 February 1999
I am a great fan of Richard Dreyfuss. This, by far, is his best role. I am in healthcare and this movie handles the issue of dying with dignity and quality of life with brilliance. I really wish everyone would watch this great movie.
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6/10
Well-crafted showcase for the actors
moonspinner5518 November 2006
Richard Dreyfuss is typically mercurial as an artist who is involved in an auto accident and is paralyzed from the neck down; he fights for his right to die with dignity while laid up in his hospital room, causing consternation amongst the hospital staff. Adapation of Brian Clark's celebrated (if thin) stage play--whose leading character has been portrayed at different times by both male and female actors--is given a fairly tight direction by John Badham, who seems unaware that Dreyfuss' sculptor can be awfully obnoxious on occasion. Still, the material has strong moments, and the supporting performances by John Cassavetes and (most especially) Christine Lahti are top-notch. Attempts to "open up" the stagy action tend to falter, with a pot-smoking sequence that is simply extraneous, yet it's a moving and satisfying picture, if somewhat aloof. **1/2 from ****
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10/10
AMAZING
lasagnaking17 September 2001
This film is simply as close to perfect as I'd ever want a movie to be. The entire cast is impeccable. Even Khaki Hunter (the Porky's movies) gives a wonderful performance.

Richard Dreyfuss is amazing. He gives his most complete performance while only able to use his head. Bob Balaban, as a stuttering attorney is amusing. Christine Lahti and Janet Eilber make you want to cry. The only thing wrong with this movie is that it had an ending. It didn't need one. We could have been left to ponder the enormous question, right along with the judge, as the credits rolled.
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Inciteful challenge to the power given to doctors by the state - 8/10
SSCMSMIT7 October 2003
This film may well deal with a taboo area of medicine which of course is patients control over their own death. The film deals with a very morbid subject area without descending into difficult viewing.Richard Dreyfuss's delivers a continum of comedy while not betraying the feeling of hopelessness felt by his character. Other than great dialogue and acting the film leaves the viewer questioning common sense notions of the rightieusness (probably spelt wrong sorry) of medical professionals as well as acknowledging the reality that the institution of medicine is a new religion that dictates its own values on the less powerful subjects in its claws (claws is too much isn't it). Great film!!!
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10/10
A must see and feel movie
mstektite23 June 2006
This movie moved me from horror to laughter to tears. I can't believe Richard Dreyfus doesn't remember doing this film. His performance was magnificent. He was so believable in playing this role of a quadriplegic. This movie pulled me in to it and wouldn't let me go until the end. If they ever try to do a remake, I believe it may be hard to fill in this role with just any other actor. I compared it to the movie "million dollar baby". Each was special in it's own way, in one, you spend more time getting to know the person before her accident while the other with Richard Dreyfus, you didn't get to know him very well until after his accident which happens right near the beginning. By the way, that special effects car accident was spectacular.
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Highly recommended.
gregson26 April 2002
This film is not even about life or death it is about power and is especially relevant these days what with the Oregon Death With Dignity Law controversy. It is a well-done film that masterfully lays out the issues involved. It is also a well-told story and in my book, that is the prime requirement for a good film.
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10/10
Loved it,
indikaur16 May 2005
This is a great movie for future nurses, etc. also saw Gross Anatomy, Chicogo Hope, and other medical related programming .....THANX for the inspiration / look up John Cassavetes, too.....He was the Medical Director, in Who's Life is it, Anyway, indikaur@khalsa.com "e" me, later. I really enjoyed the fact that it was in real hospital and actress nurses, possibly real ones, too and the close ups of equipment, and that crazy orderly, going' after SN as well as mini tours of that hospital when he was on the way to other areas within hospital, if you could tell me which hospital is was, I'd be grateful and the name of the school of nursing, too .....
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Incredibly moving.
lodai24 January 2003
Ever since my first viewing of this wonderful movie, I have watched it many times. I to this day am not tired of it. I find it to very funny, moving, and an incredible tear jerker. I love this movie and am proud to say that it is definitely one of, if not my all time favorite movie.
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8/10
Whose Life Is Is Anyway? (1981) ***1/2
JoeKarlosi9 June 2010
Based on a play of the same name, Richard Dreyfuss plays Ken Harrison, a very talented and vibrant sculptor who meets with tragedy one day when he's involved in a near-fatal car wreck. He ultimately learns that he will be dependent on being trapped in a hospital bed for the rest of his existence, paralyzed from the neck down and only able to move his head. Though Ken has a strong spirit and is basically good-natured, he cannot accept the fate of never being able to perform his craft again and seeks to be set free and allowed to die. His doctor (John Cassavetes), however, is a gruff but dedicated man with strong principles who feels he has a responsibility to preserve life rather than destroy it, and thus fights Ken every step of the way.

I first saw this controversial John Badham film upon its initial theatrical run, and it didn't get a DVD release until 2007, which then went quickly out of print, and that's a shame. It cost me a bit much to get the now-rare DVD, but it was worth it to me because I think it's such an involving movie. Richard Dreyfuss has one of his best roles, and it's amazing that he manages such a good performance when you realize that the actor himself was going through the flu at the time of shooting, and by his own admission has stated that he now has absolutely NO RECOLLECTION of making the film, as he was also heavily addicted to drugs at the time (which nearly killed him). It's quite mind-boggling to think that a person could be starring in a movie which is primarily focused on the value of life as its subject, all the while risking his own life with drug abuse simultaneously in between shooting. I really like John Cassavetes as Dr. Emerson in this story; he's got a professional yet snide demeanor that really makes him effective as the villain of the piece. Christine Lahti shines as another doctor taking care of Ken Harrison, who at first cannot sympathize with his plight but gradually becomes receptive to his feelings. The relationship between the Lahti and Dreyfuss characters is one of the strongest assets in the film. ***1/2 out of ****
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9/10
Ending is the correct one.
danielri8 September 2016
Warning: Spoilers
SPOILER AHEAD.

The ending is important to understand. Given the choice to end his life voluntarily, he can now relax and enjoy whatever time he chooses to keep on living despite the paralysis below his neck.

In countries where patients can choose to end what they consider an intolerable existence with a handy pill of some kind, they can sit back and possibly enjoy life again because now they can control the moment of non-existence.

Reminds me of the Zen question: who were you before you were born or even conceived.

My thoughts on this: dying is simply a return to the state of nothingness there was before I was conceived.

Of course others believe in some kind of reincarnation. But that is another matter.
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8/10
death: has anyone the right to offer you the right to choose it?
regysearcher6 November 2006
Warning: Spoilers
i remember running into this film several times on TV but i've never actually watched it entirely until now. the movie is a very convincing plead for death. a man who argues with himself because nobody around him knows how to listen. very smart lines, a genuine Richard Dreyfuss, very intelligent (though sometimes dark) humor. i won't tell you more not to spoil the fun. a similar story (which now i think this movie inspired) you'll find in Alejandro amenabar's "mar adentro".

since you find a lot of hollywoodian crap movies "flagged" 7.7 like "lucky number slevin" for example (which i think is a f...g aberation - who votes for these anyway? 4 votes at most not to consider the acting which is a total failure) i'd give this an 8 out of 10.

it'll get you questioning about human reactions in desperate cases. i dearly recommend it to whoever hesitates seeing it and runs into this comment.
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6/10
An ending that cheapens.
WhimsicalVonia16 September 2018
Warning: Spoilers
Whose Life Is It Anyway? (1981) Director: John Badham Watched: 8/19/18 Rating: 6/10

**Spoilers**

Dreyfuss deftly plays Bold quadriplegic sculptor, Wants euthanasia.

With only his head- To convey such emotion, Even induce laughs!

Great supporting cast; Sound secular debate but Story lacks depth/breadth.

Wins right to die case, But might change his mind? What a cop-out end!

Rather laugh with "Whose Line"- Improv's first rule: to commit!
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8/10
amazing character played by an icon
SnoopyStyle18 January 2017
Boston sculptor Ken Harrison (Richard Dreyfuss) is paralyzed by a car accident. He is left a quadriplegic. It's six months later and there is no improvement. Mary Jo Sadler is the young, inexperienced, new nurse and Rodriguez is the veteran. John is a friendly orderly. Dr. Clare Scott (Christine Lahti) is concerned about Ken and Dr. Michael Emerson (John Cassavetes) is the hard-nosed supervisor who insists that he knows what's best. Ken drives away his supportive dancer girlfriend Pat. He hires lawyer Carter Hill (Bob Balaban) to sue for his right to die.

This is an amazing character played by an icon. It's as simple as that. The emotions are all on display despite the character's limitations. It is a compelling performance and very human.
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5/10
A Good movie;however was it plausible
mack-3811 December 1999
I enjoyed this movie, I like Richard Dreyfuss and Christine Lahti never looked more stunning. The subject matter of this movie is dark, so was it plausible for the main star to take his plight so lightly? The arguments made at the end of this movie were both intelligent and very well done with both sides presenting their views with equal intensity.
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6/10
Could have been much better
The_Core14 February 2004
This film could have been great, except for some serious scripting and characterization problems. Many of the characters are stereotypical, wafer-thin portrayals, particularly the head doctor who wants to keep Dreyfuss's character alive. The "party scene in the hospital basement" is not only cliched, but nobody got fired or got in trouble (the Jamaican nurse in particular) for smoking dope in a hospital, and taking a quadraplegic patient out of their bed without permission in the middle of the night? Give me a break!

Finally, Dreyfuss's decision to "remain in the hospital to die" at the end... the judge's ruling was specifically that he be released (writ of Habeus Corpus), not that he be allowed to die without treatment in the hospital!

These serious problems (particularly the latter, where he decides to stay in the hospital) just about ruin the film for me. Never mind that there's never much of a real sense of suspense or genuine emotion here, and everything plays far too liberally off (melo)drama generated by the Dreyfuss character's decision. I'll give it 6/10, and I feel like I'm being generous. Comes dangerously close to trivializing the issues portrayed in the film, and occasionally crosses the line... if it weren't for much more honest films with subject matter just as difficult (like "Dead Man Walking") I might be more forgiving and just chalk it up to the best Hollywood can do with this sort of material, but I know better.
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