ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Paul Ingles learned many things from his father.
Yet, it was the final months of his father’s life where he learned the most from the World War II veteran.
It is also the impetus behind the feature film, “A Soldier’s Passage.”
“It was ambitious,” Ingles says of the project. “But I wanted to capture everything that my father wanted to say.”
While spending time with his father in the months leading up to his passing, Ingles was swept up in the profundity of the experience and began to think about making his second collaboration with fellow filmmaker Tim Nenninger a feature film about that time with his dad.
The film’s title comes from the title of a memoir that Ingles’ father wrote in the mid-1980s about his experience as a first lieutenant in Patton’s Third Army at the Battle of the Bulge and in other European action towards the end of World War II.
The senior Ingles was awarded both a Purple Heart and a Bronze Star for his service, but he chose not to make the military his career, instead going into business as an executive with a phone company in the Washington, D.C. area, which is where Ingles and his siblings grew up.
The Albuquerque-based filmmaker and actor self-financed the project which is a mildly fictionalized account of his experience with his dad.
Ingles began to work on the script in January 2017 – about six months after his father died.
Also an actor, Ingles starred as a version of himself in the movie.
“I began taking acting classes at Sol Acting Academy in 2010,” Ingles says. “I was obviously the oldest person there. I learned and took this notion with me. If I wanted to be in films, I would write them myself. So I did.”
Ingles’ father, John S. Ingles was widowed at the age of 88 when his wife of 60 years died, leaving him to finish out life’s ride alone in an assisted living community in North Carolina. John S. Ingles died July 5, 2016.
In the film, the John S. Ingles character is played by Fred Schwab. Ingles’ siblings are played by Paul Venable and Janelle Lovin Mancha.
The film tracks the nine months from the fall of 2015 to the summer of 2016 when his father, now 93, begins to see his health slide after some fainting spells at the retirement home and subsequent visits to the hospital.
The three adult kids, spread out across the country, have differing opinions about whether to place their dad in hospice care with 24/7 home health support, something he is adamantly resisting. A long-planned trip to Australia for Jane and her family forces a decision on his care.
Ingles says he wrote the script largely from his point of view as the one able to spend the most time with his father in those last months.
Both of his siblings need to hold down their full-time teaching jobs and can’t visit their dad as often.
“I’ve been telling folks that the film is a cross between the very talky cult classic ‘My Dinner with Andre’ and ‘Tuesdays with Morrie’, another film about life-lesson sharing between generations,” says Ingles.
The film’s subtitle is “Conversations from the Last Mile of the Long March Home”
“My father was in a very active life-review in those final months,” Ingles says. “I was humbled at some of the things he chose to share with me. I wanted to be conscious about being as good an end-of-life companion as I could be, so I was talking it over a lot with my therapist in real life here in Albuquerque. He was a huge help to me.”
Ingles took the opportunity to spend the time with his father because when his mother died, he wasn’t there.
He knows that the subject is universal because most everyone is going to have to go through this at one point.
“My dad told me he could have been a better father and husband,” Ingles says. “It’s an ordinary story. I think an audience will walk out with a lot of useful ideas about how to talk their aging loved ones through these challenging times at life’s end. And how to be present with the beautiful moments that can still happen as a death unfolds in front of them. It’s not something that has to be feared or avoided. The death-witnessing experience can reveal a path to a better life for those who are left to carry on.”
Ingles also teamed up with the Guild Cinema to stream the film as part of its virtual theater programming. The film will be available to rent or buy at guildcinema.com through the end of June.