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Stopped on Track
IMDB Rating: 7.6/10 from votes
Release: 17 November 2011 (Germany) /

Stopped on Track

Genre: Drama
Director: Andreas Dresen,
Stars: , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
Synopsis: When Frank is diagnosed with incurable brain tumor, he's got only a few months to live. Along with his wife, he doesn't know how and when to tell their children about it. Meanwhile, Frank's health is getting worse with each day.

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Critic Reviews


I saw this film as part of the Ghent filmfestival 2011, in the same week that I saw "50/50" (Levine; 2011) with a similar theme. Both portrayed how relatives and friends try to cope with the announcement of an immanent death after a tumor diagnosis. It is particularly interesting to see how some evade the issue, and others rise to the challenge. For most people it is already difficult enough to properly behave after someone has died, even knowing we have established rituals for that. Being diagnosed with cancer is different in many ways, and we have no recipes ready.

Both films succeed very well in showing how friends and relatives initially react, and how good or bad they find their way later on in dealing with the issues at hand. In many other respects, the two films are very different. The chances for survival, for example, are 50/50 within the film of that name, contrary to the brain tumor diagnosed in Stopped On Track, being not curable in any way. The latter is the prime reason that humor is as good as absent in that film, while it is a prominent feature of 50/50, regardless of the fact that the spine tumor in 50/50 may prove just as fatal.

The brain tumor is impossible to operate, and chemo nor radiation therapy seem to offer any relief. Telling everyone around what is going on, cannot be postponed very long. It will become apparent in a few months time anyway. But is it wise to tell the whole ugly truth to the daughter (12 years old) and son (8 years)?? And how will the grandparents deal with the bad news??

From very close nearby we observe all subsequent phases leading to the inevitable death: sudden headaches, memory loss, problems with daily tasks, and more such side effects of deterioration. The constant daily burden works out very differently on the family members. The wife admits aloud that there are moments that she cannot take it anymore, and that she is happy when she can escape to her work. The daughter creates distance and is often away. We see similar differences in approach with others. That the good moments decrease and the bad moments increase obviously causes all sorts of cracks in mutual relationships.

We see the months pass by. Visiting friends and relatives try to communicate with him, mostly with unexpected results when ancient memories hijack the dialog. We see him become weaker and weaker, mostly because of steadily rising doses of morphine he gets. A benefit of the sedation is that the home situation becomes gradually more quiet. In the meantime all get used to the idea that the end is near.

The finale of this film is predictable, given what the doctor said at the beginning (this cannot be construed as a spoiler). The important message lies in what happened in between, how everyone was able (or not) to deal with the situation. It lets us ponder how we would behave ourselves when this happened in our own lives. Maybe the film prepares us for it, and makes us a better patient, friend or family member.

All in all, I'm very satisfied with the film, the main actors and the ingredients for the story. You cannot help getting involved in how these people react, and their problems in doing their best, but not always succeed in that. I gave it 5 stars (out of 5) for the public prize competition when leaving the theater.

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