Monday, 14 January 2013

Bucket List

This is a gentle and heart-warming film that forces viewers to consider their own mortality. If you knew the date you would die, would you live your remaining days any differently? Sadly, each day for many people and families, the news they receive is bad news about a loved ones' prognosis. This film explores two unlikely characters thrown together in the shared experience of being diagnosed with cancer and given only months to live.

Edward (Jack Nicholson) and Carter (Morgan Freeman), both in their 60's share the same hospital room as they face surgery and chemotherapy. Both are trapped men. Edward is trapped by the need to go on making money. He is a self-made billionaire, married and divorced four times, used to getting his own way and not afraid to trample on people to get it. Carter married young and was forced to pull out of University to find work to support his wife with a baby on the way - as he says, black young and poor - not much of a start in life. He worked at the same job for 45 years to ensure his children didn't suffer the same challenges and he is still married to the same wife - and in fact discloses that he has never been with another woman. Edward is lonely and he mocks Carter as he receives a constant stream of 'interruptions' as members of his extended family visit. Edward has one daughter from whom he has been estranged for many years. The stark contrast between the two men is plainly set out - perhaps a little too artificially.

Carter remembers back to a philosophy class he took where the Professor set the students the task of writing a 'Bucket List' - a list of things to do before you 'kick the bucket' - die. Carter's list of 45 years earlier was filled with ideological and idealised things. Now, as he lies in his bed with IV chemo, he writes a new list which is more realistic and pragmatic - but no less meaningful. Edward gets hold of it and decides to use his wealth to make it happen for the both of them before they die. Buoyed by the medication they set off and enjoy a range of activities and locations.

However, as their relationship deepens, so do the things that separate them. Carter wants to have some time for himself when his family want him at home so that they can enjoy his last months with him. Edward puts on a brave face and enjoys the finest things in life - including Kopi Luwak coffee - "the finest beverage in the world". (If you want to find out more about it, click here.) He also refuses to discuss his daughter with Carter.

In a way this is very much a road movie. The journey is towards an earlier than hoped for death and it visits the cruel, painful and at times hilarious twists and turns such a journey takes you on. At times the storyline is a little wallowy but is carried by the immense acting ability of Jack Nicholson and Morgan Freeman. But at the hour and half mark, it is a story well worth engaging with - however uncomfortable it may make you feel and even if it does generate unwelcome memories.

So, what would be on your bucket list? Would you want to know the probable time of your death? Who would matter more, and who less, to you then? Would you think of God any differently? I think this is a delightful and appropriately funny way to deal with a heavy and all-too-real subject. Get the disc and watch the film. I'll give it 7.5/10.

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