Your Cancer Examiner will never be confused with Roger Ebert, Gene Siskel, or Richard Roper, but I do know a good movie when I see one. You may rightfully assume that a movie focused on two young men dying of leukemia would catch our attention, but Ways To Live Forever is not merely a “cancer movie.”
Opening this Friday at select theaters across the country, World Wide Motion Pictures Corporation’s Ways To Live Forever is an important and engaging movie that all families should see, not just those currently impacted by cancer.
Ways To Live Forever is about Sam, a 12-year old boy and his buddy, Felix. They met in the hospital while undergoing treatment. Friendship is always important, but friendships that develop while going through adversity are particularly meaningful. We join the young men as they embark on an adventure that consists of identifying all of the things Sam wishes to do in his life and then doing them. Of course, you should put some tissues in your pocket or purse as there are some moments of sadness in the movie that are inevitable when children (or anyone) is facing a life-threatening disease. But you will find that the tears are out numbered by the many moments of joy in the movie. You will see that the movie is more about living than it is about dying. The young men show us courage, strength, and imagination not frailty, resentment, or resignation. Sam and Felix teach us about seizing the moment and living in the present, more than preparing for the end.
Though the film is mostly about Sam, it provides important insights about how Sam’s family members relate to Sam and to his condition. The roles of Sam’s father and mother are well-played though full development of the characters was not necessary. Sam’s father understandably is having a difficult time accepting the fate of his son and is trying to balance spending as much time as he can with Sam with his need to earn a living for the family. Ultimately, Sam’s father finds the balance must tip in favor of spending quality time with his son. To the delight of a surprised Sam, his dad helps Sam achieve his wishes. He picks up the slack when Felix is unable to continue on with the adventure. Sam’s mother is more intimately involved with Sam’s care and doctor visits. She must choose between attempting to extend her son’s life as long as possible and maximizing the quality of time Sam has left. Sam shows her the way. Sam’s grandmother helps Sam (and us) appreciate the interconnected nature of the universe.
Felix, however, is Sam’s real inspiration. This young man both inspires Sam and serves as a reality check. Wise beyond his years, he knows the joy of giving. Felix is not focused on fulfilling his own wishes because he is too busy helping Sam. Felix lives large even after his death. There are touching “teenager coming of age” moments in the film, but the movie cannot afford to get bogged down in them because Sam simply has too much to accomplish.
Sam and Felix show us that the “little things” in life matter. They teach us how to go about the business of living even in the face of health challenges. At the same time, they pose the “big questions” that adults often are afraid to ask and unable to answer. Sam and Felix employ humor, irony, and passion to teach us a great deal about life in less than two hours. Make no mistake about it – as in real life – the adults learn from and acquire their strength from young ones.
You will not only be moved by the film, you will come away with a greater appreciation for life and the importance of seizing the moment. You also will emerge with some fresh insights into the bigger questions of life. Sam and Felix succeed in finding Ways To Live Forever!