The manner in which Nurse Gilpin goes about what is effectively enforced euthanasia, is deeply chilling. And yet her reasoning is not entirely foreign to us – to end suffering could be deemed a noble cause. In fact, the need to simply delete the reality of suffering, particularly the suffering of the old is one that perhaps is not so uncommon. Throughout Allelujah!,we are reminded of our tendency to run from, to detest, to reject the suffering of the elderly in our society. When Dr Valentine remarks, “I like old people” a visitor responds “not even old people like old people”. A teenage intern declares to a patient “I hope I never live to be your age”. At the same time, characters look back on the days “when the elderly weren’t farmed out”, and questions are asked of families “if they love them, why do they put them away?”. A very good question. Of course, care needs are often too great for families to endure, yet it is still important to ask why the suffering of the old has become a professionalised service, which most of us avoid at all costs. Perhaps the answer to this is that we don’t like to watch the old suffer, we don’t like to watch them die, because their suffering and their death remind us of our future selves, our future suffering, our future death. In our sanitised, anything-is-possible-with-medicine-and-science society, death and the suffering that comes with it, is something from which we flee at all costs. Instead of acknowledging and working with it, we would rather pretend it wasn’t there at all.
And yet, even as we try to avoid it, suffering and death are both certain parts of all our futures. 100% of us will die. For Nurse Gilpin, the solution to this is to bring on death prematurely, to erase the pain, overcome the misery by offering a false hope – that it doesn’t need to exist at all. In direct contrast to this, in a film which is littered with Christian references (Allelujah, The Bethlehem), there is a different approach taken by a messiah-type figure who seems to get everything right. Dr Valentine is compassionate and understanding. He not only challenges the political systems which undermine those most at the margins of society, but also has the kind of bedside manner we would all hope for in a doctor. In a closing monologue Dr Valentine utters the words of the doctors in the NHS, “We will be here when you are old, and we would die for you, we are love itself and for love there is no charge”.