A film focused on the long goodbye to a parent who fought as long as they could.
Trigger Warning(s): Deals with death of parent and children with cancer
Review (with Spoilers)
With top billing belonging to Amy Adams, the familiar face of Jessica Brown Findlay from Downton Abbey, and a sad topic which seemed like it would lead to a good cry, what other reasons would you need to see the film?
Characters & Story
After leaving New York to pursue music in California, Robert’s (Richard Jenkins) son Jonathan (Garrett Hedlund) returns only a day or so before Robert, after 12 years, is ready to die. Something his daughter Karen (Jessica Brown Findlay) refuses to let happen. But, with only a day, or so, until Robert’s Dr. (Terrence Howard) is to perform an assisted suicide of sorts, Karen doesn’t have much time to convince her dad to stick around much longer.
The more and more media I watch when it comes to people having cancer, dealing with family members dying, and other similar themes, I must admit I have built a sort of tolerance. Yet, with this film I found myself getting a bit emotional throughout. For while neither of my own parents are sick, nor anyone I personally know, the performances by both Hedlund and Findlay do bring you to that possible point where you realize that the natural way of the world, unfortunately, is for children to bury their parents.
But, it isn’t just Hedlund and Findlay, with of course Jenkins being front and center, that get you when watching this film. A side story with Jon dealing with this 17-year-old cancer patient named Meredith (Jessica Barden) I think damn near matched the emotional impact of Robert’s sickness. Which perhaps is weird to say since Meredith is a stranger to Jon in comparison to his dad, but what Meredith brought to the movie was a more unique, if not rare, angle to dying. For, to my media knowledge, there aren’t too many movies or TV shows which focus on kids dying of cancer, and while arguably there is The Fault In Our Stars, I do feel Meredith gave us a more realist depiction of cancer than the optimistic, and arguably romanticized, view The Fault In Our Stars had for most of its movie. In fact, I sort of wish that Jon’s sole side story was simply his character developing through hanging around Meredith and his sister more than anything else.
Now, being that this film has a depressing subject matter, naturally it feels long. But being that it is nearly 2 hours, it feels so long that honestly I had to walk away sometimes. What doesn’t help things though is as much as it was nice to get to know Jon, I felt the addition of Emily (Amy Adams) wasn’t fully necessary to the story and could have been cut. For, after watching the film, I think the sole reason she is included is because she a recognizable name and not because her character really adds to the movie. For as Jon’s ex she may let us know how bad he is with expressing his emotions, but with his dad dying it does make you wonder why they needed to go into Jon’s love life?
Also, I must admit that I felt bored at times when it was just Jon and Robert in a scene together. For while they certainly had chemistry, and issues between them, I just didn’t feel that invested in Jon’s life overall. Be it because he is a spoiler rich kid who just seemed a tad aimless, or because he seemed only devastated about his dad’s death, at first, because he wasn’t getting any money. Either way, the only thing which made his character interesting was when he was with the rest of his family, with Meredith, or one of the few scenes he had alone with his sister Karen.
Overall: TV Viewing
This is one of those movies which start off strong, but as time goes on it wears out its welcome to the point you start looking at your watch a bit. For while the story will probably affect you emotionally, especially the one with Meredith, I just felt that after a while there was too much focus on Jon’s life and not enough on either Robert’s suffering, and decision, or how it affected his wife and daughter. Because of that, I am labeling this as “TV Viewing.” For if the film wasn’t so damn focused on Jon it could have been “Worth Seeing,” but be it that the decision was to make Jon center of the universe, it gave the film a serious flaw.