Mary Jo and George. Photo by Benjamin Steger
Stage Four: A Love Story is an intimate and rich portrait of a mother and her family as she faces terminal illness. It is a sincere commentary on how the joys and love of family can outweigh struggle. It is the story of two people searching for each other throughout and until the very end of their lives, becoming lost and finding their ways again. Its themes are universal and timeless: imperfect love, acceptance and reconciliation, a family navigating through the ebb and flow of life and death.
The film delves over fifty years into the past to explore the often-flawed love and marriage between Mary Jo and George, but is framed within the present as they confront her stage-four breast cancer diagnosis. The journey into the past provides a deeper understanding of the characters and the forces that shaped them, while the present-day chronicling of her journey with cancer shows how confronting the disease pushes their relationship toward a state of grace.
I began this project in the spring of 2005, after learning of my mother's cancer diagnosis. For over six years, I followed and explored my mother and father's journey as they considered her needs, debated her options, and eventually came to the deepest and most fulfilled expressions of their love. It is my sincere hope that the film can provide solace to those who find their lives upended by cancer and other terminal illnesses, as well as provide a meditation on how we might navigate the often convoluted and tumultuous paths of love, health, sickness, and death in our own lives.
-Benjamin Steger, Director and Producer