50/50, based on the real life experiences of screenwriter Will Reiser, was written to show how he and his best friend Seth Rogen (who plays a character loosely based on himself in the film) dealt with the trauma of the diagnosis by trying “to find the humour in the situation [because] we were not good at talking about it at an emotional level.”
The result, which hits screens just in time for Breast Cancer Awareness Month, is touching, poignant and funny.
Here are some other inspirational films about cancer.
The Terry Fox Story, the 1983 HBO biopic of the cancer research activist and his Marathon of Hope, was shown in theatres in Canada and Britain, but was the first television film ever made for a cable network in the United States.
Starring Eric Fryer, an amputee who, like Fox, lost a leg to cancer, the movie details Fox’s goal to raise one dollar from every Canadian and create awareness of cancer issues.
Also based on real life is The Doctor, a 1991 film starring William Hurt as a physician who becomes more compassionate after he is diagnosed with throat cancer. Based on the book A Taste of My Own Medicine: When the Doctor Becomes the Patient by Dr. Ed Rosenbaum, the movie co-stars Christine Lahti, Mandy Patinkin and Adam Arkin, all of whom also played doctors on Chicago Hope.
Other films show the different ways people react to a cancer diagnosis. In My Life Without Me, Sarah Polley plays a 23-year-old mother of two diagnosed with a terminal endometrial cancer.
Choosing to keep the news to herself, she makes a secret list of all the things she wants to do before she passes. From the sublime —“Tell my daughters I love them several times” — to the ridiculous — “Get false nails. And do something with my hair.” — the items on the list give her life purpose and meaning.
In Life as a House, Kevin Kline is George Monroe, an architect’s model builder with terminal cancer. The diagnosis forces him to look at his life — “Hindsight,” he says, “it’s like foresight without a future”— and rebuild his dilapidated house as well as his tattered relationships.