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A reality check on the silver screen

  • Published at 06:02 pm February 2nd, 2017
  • Last updated at 06:04 pm February 2nd, 2017
A reality check on the silver screen
When a deadly disease like cancer is depicted on the silver screen, it is bound to garner emotional responses from the audiences. The successes of movies where the protagonists have cancer prove that people love having emotional roller-coaster rides. These movies not only give people the chance to better understand the disease but also give a glimpse of the trials and tribulations faced by a cancer patient. Here are a list of movies dealing with cancer that you should definitely watch.

Love Story

This movie has all of the formulaic sappy sounding ingredients to make this a sappy formulaic romantic movie. Yet Love Story is not. Why? Because of cancer. It was a popular novel back in the day and the film was a blockbuster that propelled Ryan O Neal and Ali McGraw to stardom. It is rather a simple tale of two people who meet, fall in love, get married and then one of them die from cancer. A tragic and poignant film, Love Story also created the trend of what came to be known as the ‘sick-flick’. Also the movie's tagline "Love means never having to say you're sorry" became an iconic catchphrase.

My Life Without Me

For those of you who enjoy a good cry, this will probably do the trick. A young wife and mother named Ann (played by Sarah Polley) is told that she only has a few months to live. Rather than tell the people that she loves what is happening, Ann decides to spare them the heartache and goes about setting things up so that her loved ones transition to life without her as easying as possible. Her actions include introducing and fostering a friendship between her husband and daughters with the compassionate and vibrant woman next door whom she hopes will eventually take her place as wife and mother. In addition, Ann sets out to do the things she has always wanted to do which include having an affair with a handsome stranger, played by Mark Ruffalo in an intense and moving performance. The film avoids the obvious pitfalls of contrived sentiment, and finds emotion in more subtle ways. It doesn't go into 'meaning of life' territory either, which is refreshing.

The Fault in Our Stars

This movie will remind you of how special your life is and help you embrace the good deeds. Based on a bestselling book, The Fault in Our Stars follows Hazel (Shailene Woodley), a young girl suffering from cancer. She is bitter and snarky about her condition. She does not have any apparent friends (her one friend in the novel was cut from the film), and she feels like she is just a 'grenade' waiting to go off. Her mom (Laura Dern) urges her to go to the group counseling at the local church. This is where she meets Augustus Waters (Ansel Elgort), the boy who will eventually sweep her off her feet. From then on, it follows the recipe of a typical sick-flick. However, the on screen chemistry between Shailene Woodley and Ansel Elgort sends this film into that rarefied realm of becoming a classic.


50/50 is something of a rarity – you could call it a ‘cancer comedy’ but that doesn't come close to capturing the nuance offered by it. The film is refreshingly realistic in its depiction of cancer treatment. 50/50 is also very specifically grounded in what it's like to have cancer now. When the doctor's wordy, rapid-fire diagnosis confuses Adam, the main character (portrayed by Joseph Gordon Levitt), he goes home and looks up "schwanomma" on WebMD. When he tells his friend Kyle (Seth Rogen) he has cancer, Kyle's mind immediately jumps to the celebrities who've survived it (including Lance Armstrong and "Dexter"). His well-meaning friends and mother foist stupid, new-age cures on Adam, and he's just desperate enough to try them. However, 50/50 is smart enough to recognise that the cancer experience is both universally relatable and incredibly specific, and it nails both sides of the equation. Movies about cancer flawed but useful: a study Movies often tackle important issues and are frequently considered to be a barometer of the times. However, when it comes to cancer, the experiences depicted in films are often quite different from reality, according to a new study. "The patients in the movies are usually very young, about 40 years, which is not the predominant age for cancer," said study author Giovanni Rosti, MD, from Ospedale Ca' Focello in Treviso, Italy. In addition, there are more females than males with cancer in the movies, which does not reflect reality. "What was most striking for us was that the incidence of the big killers — breast cancer, lung cancer, colon cancer" — is not realistically represented in the movies, he noted. The study was highlighted here at the 2012 European Society for Medical Oncology Congress. The researchers reviewed 82 movies filmed from 1939 to 2012 in 13 different countries. In this cohort, 40 of the cancer patients were women and 35 were men, and 64% belonged to the upper or upper-middle social class. In 21 films, the type of cancer was not mentioned. There were only seven cases of lung cancer and five cases of breast cancer, Dr. Rosti pointed out. "The majority are leukemia, lymphoma, and brain tumors, which are rare and are 'inside' the body," he said. "You don't see leukemia like you would see laryngeal cancer." Symptoms were noted in 72% of the movies, diagnostic tests were mentioned in 65%, and the most commonly cited treatment was chemotherapy followed by pain relief. Healthcare professionals, such as physicians and nurses, were included in 77% of the films. Symptoms, diagnostic tests, and treatments tended to be realistic, particularly in films produced during the last 2 decades, the researchers note. Importantly, there is a strong trend for cancer patients to die at the end of the film. In fact, this happened in 63% of the movies. So why is the movie world different from real life? Dr. Rosti believes it is because "we are dealing with drama and emotion; a patient who is cured is not as dramatic and emotional." A "movie is a movie" and the idea is to show emotion, he said. "Pain is present in 40% of the movies, but while you feel pain, you never see the patient in pain," he added.