At the End of a much too short Day

That is the reverse-translated German title of a movie otherwise known as Death of a Superhero which I saw at a press screening today and I must say it was very touching, but not for reasons you might imagine. The story is pretty simple and straightforward – teenage boy has cancer and is going to die and then some – but the way it’s unfolding is what makes it so refreshing.

Generally movies about people with terminal illnesses are often so-so at best. There are heavy-handed efforts like Philadelphia that dump too many problems on the viewer, then there’s of course all the kitschy-teary stuff like in Steel Magnolias (though that movie is still brilliant for other reasons) and finally there’s some comedies that try to take the "let’s do this and that before I die" spin, but over the course of their running time actually push the problem so far in the background, you forget what it was all about. As you can see, anybody trying to produce such a film is treading on dangerous ground. Lucky for us, Death of a Superhero manages to avoid most of the clicheés while still retaining a good mix of all those ingredients and adding its own layers of storytelling.

At first the characters may seem pretty bog standard – you have the best buddies whose primary concern is to not let their friend die as a "virgin", you have the mother who just doesn’t wanna face reality and is clinging to every bit of hope any new article on the Internet gives her, you have the father who never told his son how much he loved him, you have the doctors who just don’t know what else to try for therapy, you have the shrink who carries his own grief, you have the girl as blossoming love interest and finally the main protagonist himself. However, where the movie particularly succeeds is in portraying all of them as "normal". They don’t write poetic entries in their diary, they don’t run around holding hands all the time, they don’t constantly scream at each other, they just wanna somehow get through this and get on with their life – what’s left of it, anyway. That is especially true for the hero who is simply massively frustrated, feeling misunderstood and left alone while at the same time being annoyed by everyone around him trying to bee too caring in all the wrong ways. It’s all done subtly enough for you to just accept it and that is the great strength of this film.

Having spent a good deal of the last year among cancer patients and still spending several days a month at doctors or in hospitals even, I can relate to it quite a bit. You know, it’s this strange mixture of that you actually want people to care for you but you are just as afraid to let them too close. Likewise, you realize that all this medical stuff is necessary, but you just hate it all the same because – and here we get back to the title – it takes away from your already short days or at least those days where you are not feeling that sick and exhausted like on other ones. So if you want to understand all that a bit better, watching this movie will help a lot and it’s a good way to spend an hour and a half…

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