Two current films that deal with life threatening illness approach the topic with unique and successful results. Both “50/50,” based on the true story of a man who faces split odds in a cancer fight, and “Restless” which tells the tale of a quirky couple who are both obsessed with death and deathly afraid of loss, are powerful stories that are both fresh and unique. While one film utilizes comedy to cut the somber mood, the other film utilizes a melancholy tone, complete with a ghost.
“50/50,” starring Joseph Gordon Levitt and Seth Rogen is based on the true story of a 27 year-old man who is suddenly facing an uncertain future with an odd combination of assets and liabilities – mainly his friends and family. Deftly mixing the serious with the comedic elements, director Jonathan Levine takes the story by Will Reiser through the motions and yet feels sincere and honest. What could easily have turned into a depressing tale is refreshingly sincere and heartfelt. While some characters obviously become two dimensional in the service of a story, this film gives us all pause to consider how we might face a similar situation.
“Restless” from director Gus Van Sant, stars Mia Wasikowska and Henry Hopper as a pair of unlikely lovers. Henry, as Enoch, a sad sack who crashes funerals for the emotional attachment, and Mia who plays, Annabel, a patient with a short time to live, make an unusual pair for any film. Adding to the mix is the excellent Ryo Kase as the teenage ghost kamikaze pilot, whom only Henry can see. With somber paced dialog and a muted, fall color palette, the film is another feather in the cap of Van Sant who excels at telling a story with minimum dialog. A truly off-beat film that may have trouble finding an audience, “Restless” is quite the companion piece to “50/50” given their similar story of young people facing the spectre of mortality.