Long ago I watched the very end, literally 10 minutes, of the film “The Life of David Gale” and since I have tried to watch the film in its entirety, but it hasn’t been on cable for a while. Finally, it was on Showtime or Starz or one of the like so I watched it all the way through. This is not the best film to watch on a Friday evening when you are looking forward to the weekend, but it was a really thought-provoking piece, which had a cast of fabulous actors.
“The Life of David Gale” tells the tale of a professor’s last 10 years of life and how he ended up on death row with 3 days to live before being executed. He requested that his story be recorded by Bitsey (Kate Winslet), a reporter, so that his son remember how and why he dealt with the things he had to. Essentially, David, played by the magnificent Kevin Spacey, begins with him being a well-noted professor in Texas who gets accused of rape by a student who in reality seduced him. He loses everything, his wife, son, his job, and his participation in the anti-execution league as a volunteer. Because of these setbacks he becomes an alcoholic and loses even more. The only person who keeps in touch is Constance (Laura Linney) who allows David to stay with her. Constance however is battling her own demons of leukemia and was dying herself. Gale was arrested for Constance’s rape and murder and after many years of battling in the courts he was finally going to be executed.
The film was really, really well-done. Each actor had a critical role and played it marvelously. Winslet was great at being an investigative reporter and finally coming to the conclusion that Gale was in fact innocent. The end was probably the most amazing part of the whole film, at least the last 30 minutes. Bitsey figured out that Constance committed suicide and framed Gale. It was a play on the fact that the court system sentenced an innocent man to death. In reality however, Gale knew all along that he was innocent and even played a role in Constance’s suicide.
The whole question around execution is probably the central theme of this film. Is execution valid, moreover, is there any way that we can prove without question of a doubt that an individual did in fact commit the crime by which they are accused? With the leaps and bounds that science is making on a daily basis, with the addition of technology, it’s becoming harder and harder to disprove evidence in a case. But, a jury must also know the reproducibility and amount of error in the measurements that are taken in science. Herein lies the issue, in my mind. Science is great, especially in circumstances such as these, but there are such things as false positives. Also there are such things as instrumental error, sample error, and reproducibility error. All of these factors have to be discussed when someone’s life is at risk. I’m very proud of the science I do, yet there is a lot that is dependent on a variety of variable that non-scientists don’t know about. Expert witnesses may be experts but when it boils down to some theories, multiple perspectives are necessary and/or valid.
The film was an awesome piece of cinema and one that I would recommend to many viewers. It tells a great tale of a man who against all odds and with all the sadness in his life succeeds in proving something in death that he couldn’t prove in life.