Nowadays, select cable networks and PBS outlets aren’t afraid to include series and documentaries about death and dying. But few of those works showcase a serenity and determination equal to that of Neel Couwels, the 50-year-old terminally ill woman at the center of Belgian filmmaker Manno Lanssens’ lucid, surprisingly engrossing docu “Epilogue.” Lanssens follows Neel through the last seven months of her life when, free from the debilitating effects of chemotherapy, she sets about making funeral arrangements and ushering her husband and three children through the grieving process. Smallscreen and caregiving venues should take note.
Except for a round of drinks at a restaurant with female friends Couwels hasn’t seen in ages, and a romantic, honeymoon-reprising trip with husband Mark to Ireland and the cairn by the sea where her kids will scatter her ashes, most of the docu unfolds in the family’s house and garden, as the brood gathers together for mutual support. Fate has reserved a final kick in the teeth that threatens Couwels’ fight for closure, but she weathers on. Neither coldly distanced nor tearfully sentimental, “Epilogue” calmly sticks with its courageous subject to the end.