Seven great films about overcoming illness

While trying to overcome or learning to live with illness, people face up to their biggest fears and rediscover themselves. Here is Walk This Way’s top choice of seven films about people’s incredible journeys when they are faced with the biggest challenge of their lives:

The Girl With Nine Wigs by Marc Rothemund (2013, Germany, Belgium)

Available on VoD from 28 November as part of the Award Winning Dramas collection

A film about Sophie (played by popular German actress Lisa Tomaschewsky), a girl who has just started her studies when she is diagnosed with cancer. Her world is turned upside down, but she seizes this opportunity to prove she is a fighter who will not let her disease stop her from living her life to the fullest.  The film is based on Sophie Van Der Tap’s international Best-Seller book, adapted by Marc Rothemund, who won the Silver Bear at the Berlinale.

Fasten Your Seatbelts by Ferzan Ozpetek (2014, Italy)

Available on VoD since 27 June, as part of the Unexpected Love Stories collection

Fasten Your Seatbelts is an Italian comedy/drama; a complex tale of human relationships; a touching rom-com that explores modern sexuality and passion. When Elena, the film’s protagonist discovers she has a breast cancer, everyone’s lives and personal beliefs are put into question. A must-see with five awards and 20 nominations, featuring rising stars Kasia Smutniak (Perfect Strangers, From Paris with Love) Francesco Arca.

Untouchable by Olivier Nakache and Eric Toledano (2011, France)

One of the most successful recent French films, Untouchable is without a doubt among the best modern European comedy/dramas. The film follows a quadriplegic aristocrat who hires a young man from the Paris suburbs to be his caregiver. With exquisite performances by François Cluzet and Omar Sy, the chemistry they share on screen is hypnotic. Untouchable is not about overcoming a disease; it is about a special friendship that returns joy and laughter to a person that has long forgotten what it is to be happy. It is about rediscovering yourself and enjoying life again.

Philadelphia by Jonathan Demme (1993, United States)

Philadelphia is an American 90s film, one of the first to deal with the prejudices concerning HIV and homophobia. It follows a man, Andrew Beckett, a Senior Associate at a large corporate law firm. When the firm discovers he has AIDS, he is fired. Andrew hires a homophobic small time lawyer who is the only willing advocate for a wrongful dismissal suit. Starring Tom Hanks and Denzel Washington, with two Oscars, a Golden Globe and a Silver Bear, Philadelphia has become a classic, a must-see for cinema lovers.

Blind by Tamar Van Den Dop (2007, Belgium, Netherlands)

This film has a special plot: the two protagonists have been living with disease for a long time, but still cannot accept it. Ruben (Joren Seldeslachts) is a lonely young man who has lost his sight in childhood, while Marie (Halina Reijn) is an albino woman, fearful and insecure. Both share a passion for books, and Ruben’s mother hires Marie to read to her son. A film about the power of love, answering the question whether love will still be blind if the man recovers from his sightlessness. Written and directed by Dutch female filmmaker Tamar Van Den Dop, the film premiered at Toronto Film Festival.

Aaltra by Benoît Delépine, Gustave Kervern (2004, Belgium, France)

A true indie discovery, Aaltra is an incredible, non-conventional film, a comedy about two paralysed persons, shot in black and white with long stunning takes. The film follows the rivalry between two neighbours who, after a series of tragi-comic consequences end up together at the hospital, both with paralysed legs. The film is written and directed by two French comedians: Benoît Delépine and Gustave de Kervern, who also play the lead characters. A gem for European cinema lovers, winner of FIPRESCI in London, Best Actor in Puchon and Audience Award at the Transylvania Film Festival.

Try to Remember by Zabou Breitman (2001, France)

Try to Remember is a film about a woman in her 30s who is showing the first symptoms of Alzheimer's disease, a condition from which her mother has recently died. She enters a clinic where she meets a man who is traumatized after a car accident in which his wife and child were killed. A film about personal tragedy and the capacity to love again and restart your life from scratch, Beautiful Memories won Cesars for Best First Feature Film, Best Actress and Best Supporting Actor. 

24 November 2016, by Cineuropa