Fall films focus on illness, loss, grief

Several new movies being released this fall feature individuals and families facing illness and death.


One receiving a great deal of positive attention from critics and moviegoers alike is 50/50, the story of a twenty-something coping with cancer. Based on screenwriter Will Reiser's own experience with cancer, the movie stars Joseph Gordon-Levitt in the lead role and Seth Rogen as his funny and supportive friend. For her role as mother to a cancer-stricken Gordon-Levitt, Anjelica Huston drew upon her real-life experiences with loss and g... following the death of her husband, sculptor Robert Graham.


Another newly released film dealing with grief is Kenneth Lonergan's Margaret. Finally being released after six years, Lonergan's latest has not been as well-received as his first, the Oscar-winning You Can Count On Me. The story in Margaret centers around a flirtatious, self-absorbed 17-year-old (played by Anna Paquin) who distracts a bus driver (Mark Ruffalo) causing him to run a light and hit a pedestrian. At first, "Margaret promises to be one of those grief studies, like Amores Perros or The Sweet Hereafter, that follows the ripple effect of a violent event," according to a review in The Globe and Mail, but ultimately proves to be "discordant, sprawling (two and a half hours) and disastrously ambitious." The San Francisco Chronicle is a bit more generous: "You'll love it or hate it." With a cast that includes Matt Damon, Jean Reno, Allison Janney and J. Smith-Cameron, in addition to Paquin and Ruffalo, we're guessing quite a few folks will check it out and decide for themselves.


Finally, The Way, the story of a man who travels to the Pyrenees to recover his son's body, has received less attention than 50/50 and Margaret, but seems to have a lot going for it. It stars Martin Sheen as the father and is directed by Sheen's real-life son Emilio Estevez (not Charlie Sheen) who also plays Sheen's son on-screen. Also starring in The Way are "Yorick van Wageningen as a verbose Dutchman, Deborah Kara Unger as an acid-tongued woman trying to quit smoking, and James Nesbitt as an Irishman with writer’s block." Here's more from The New York Times' review:


This is not an “inspirational film” in the usual, syrupy sense; none of these people are overtly finding God on this trek. The beauty of the movie, in fact, is that Mr. Estevez does not make explicit what any of them find, beyond friendship. He lets these four fine actors convey that true personal transformations are not announced with fanfare, but happen internally.


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