Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Cancer at The Movies

As I have said before,  life in cancer and caregiving is not a made-for-TV movie. Few films capture the reality of living with --and dying from-- cancer. It is true that a visual medium is challenged to represent what is so very internal and subtle: all the waiting, in inconclusiveness of diagnosis, the boredom of chemo, eating lasagna, throwing out the lasagna that someone with mouth ulcers can’t eat, the sleeping and napping, and of course the ordinariness of what cancer is.

No, movies need drama and they need visuals so the cancer movie clichés are: getting the bad news from the doctor, telling the kids, losing hair, crying –a lot of crying, the moments before surgery, the recovery room, the death bed last words and the absolute misrepresentation of what actual death looks like.

But there are movies that give us better and worse depictions of cancer and caregiving. The one we laugh at most maybe is Love Story, based on the all time best/worst clichéd Chick Flick-before –its-time: "Love Story" by Eric Segal. The story and movie would not have been so memorable except for the two young actors in the lead: Ali McGraw and Ryan O’Neal who discovered that love means never having to say you are sorry you made this movie and therefore doomed all women with cancer to feel bad for not dying beautifully—and so well-dressed.

But still….cancer is part of life. We all have cancer (see earlier blog posts for the science on that) and we all know someone with cancer, and a lot of us fear cancer so yes, it's a great movie topic.

This week we watched the latest, sweetest and touchingly new cancer movie: “The Fault in Our Stars” based on the Young Adult novel by John Green. And I can absolutely recommend both the book and the movie to you.

It did—because the cast is young and beautiful –make me think of "Love Story" but with more fun, less smarm and better dialogue.

So here are my top ten favorite cancer movies:

     1* The Barbarian Invasions
     2* The Fault in Our Stars
     3* Love Story
     4* Terms of Endearment
     5*  50/50
     6* Wit
     7* Sweet November
     8* My Life Without Me
    9* Erin Brockovitch
    10* Stepmom

What are yours?


Marion Roach Smith said...

Wit, absolutely, for all the questions it provokes. And I will always love Terms of Endearment for the ferocity of that mother. Oh my.

Diane said...

Marion--Agreed. I have never seen WIT on stage but would love to see that. and "Terms" for whenever I need to cry but need a jumpstart:)

Michelle Simmons said...

I agree. You can't believe the amount of fiction that TV and media whips up sometimes, almost to the point of trivializing real-life dilemmas, or worse, reducing them to mere sensations or emotional buttons. The job everyone needs to do is to consult the right physicians and specialists and not let the media tell them what to think. Thanks for sharing that!

Michelle Simmons @ Comfort Keepers