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BBC Documentaries: Season 2008

2008x121 Michael Portillo: Death of a School Friend

  • 2008-11-07T21:00:00Z on BBC
  • 60 mins
  • United Kingdom
  • English
  • Documentary, Special Interest

Michael Portillo revisits the family of a school friend who committed suicide as a teenager, discovering how the tragedy has coloured their lives ever since. His friend Gary was popular and good-looking, a gifted musician and a clever student. But just before his 16th birthday he committed suicide, leaving a note telling his parents he loved them and asking them not to be sad.

In detailed and moving interviews with Gary's parents and younger brother, Michael learns how incredibly difficult it was for them to fulfil this plea. The implicit message from Gary's family to anyone who may be in despair and thinking of ending their life is to think hard about how it is going to affect those they are leaving behind.

Despite the sadness, the courage shown by the family as they revive such painful memories is uplifting. Home videos reveal a happy and carefree family. The music in the programme was composed by Gary. After being lost for 40 years, it was rediscovered in the making of the film and performed by his younger brother.