What I’ve Been Watching: 50/50

50 50 movie posterIf you were a casino game, you’d have the best odds!

Cancer. Not the easiest of topics to bring to the screen, and perhaps one the last topics you’d expect Seth Rogen to be involved with. Yet here he is, and you know what the film, like Seth Rogen’s character, is surprisingly funny, charming, heart-warming and genuine.

It focuses on Adam (Joseph Gordon Levitt) who finds out at the start of the film he’s got a rare form of cancer. The film follows his journey as he comes to terms with the fact, at the age of 27, he only has a 50% chance of surviving the disease.

There to help, and indeed hinder him, are his girlfriend of only a few months, Rachael (Bryce Dallas Howard); his best friend and co-worker Jack (Seth Rogen); his inexperienced therapist (Anna Kendrick); and his mother (Angelica Huston).

Based on the experiences of Seth Rogen’s best friend, and writer of the film, Will Reiser, the film manages to convey the emotions of a young man facing his own mortality in what feels like a very real and true way.

From the moment Adam is told about his cancer, we immediately ‘get’ the shock this must be to someone of his age, as well as screaming inwardly for some humanity from the doctor who tells him the news, describing the rare form of cancer as ‘fascinating’ as oppose to tragic.

From there, we are taken every step of the way, as Adam has to see the pain in his mother’s eyes as he tells her the news; his first round of chemotherapy; and his attempts to try and forget about both the physical and emotional pain through a combination of drugs, alcohol and sex.

Not only is the emotional journey of the film’s protagonist handled well, but 50/50 also does a great job of showing the impact the disease has on the people who love him most. It wisely shies away from allowing all the characters to express precisely what they feel about the situation. Instead, they simply try and be there for Adam, rather than giving the kind of rousing speeches emotional movies like this can be tempted to rely upon.

Reiser seems to be saying that he didn’t need people to say or do anything for him while he was going through cancer treatment but merely be.

50/50 is one of the best surprises of a film to come out this year. It’s emotional without being too sappy, and life-affirming without being preachy. A cheesier film reviewer than I might end a review like this by saying “Chances of you enjoying 50/50? 100%.” But I’m not going to fall for that trap…

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