*** (out of 5)
June 13, 2014
Amy Adams as EMILY
Garrett Hedlund as JONATHAN
Frankie Shaw as JANICE
Anne Archer as RACHEL
Richard Jenkins as ROBERT
Jessica Barden as MEREDITH
Studio: ARC Entertainment
Directed by: Andrew Levitas
BY KEVIN CARR
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I know that most people are going to end up seeing “Lullaby” in a very different context than did. Even though it’s releasing on VOD and in some theaters on June 13, 2014, many people will discover this movie on DVD and Blu-ray in a few weeks or farther along thereafter.
I happened to see the movie only a few days after the teen cancer romance “The Fault in Our Stars” tore through the box office to be one of the big success stories of the year. As someone who thoroughly disliked “The Fault in Our Stars,” it gave me an interesting perspective from which to approach “Lullaby.”
“Lullaby” tells the story of a family that comes together for the final days of the life of the father (Richard Jenkins). He has decided to turn off his life-support machines in response to his deteriorating condition from cancer, and his family must deal with the implications. The focus is mostly on his son Jonathan (Garrett Hedlund), a failed musician who has been estranged from his family for some time. Jonathan learns to come to peace with his family and the situation in which they find themselves. He also find support in Meredith (Jessica Barden), another cancer patient in the hospital.
The reason this movie made for an interesting watch after seeing “The Fault in Our Stars” is that “Lullaby” gives a heartbreakingly realistic portrayal of the disease and not just what it does to the body, but to the family as well. It does not romanticize cancer, and Richard Jenkins certainly doesn’t look as healthy and adorable as Shailene Woodley does in “The Fault in Our Stars.”
“Lullaby” only looks sideways at the person who is dying, so as to not fall into the cliches of the stages of grief one must go through to come to terms with the end of his or her life. Instead, it looks at the sometimes beautiful and sometimes ugly things it does to the people around the terminally ill.
This makes “Lullaby” an uncomfortable movie to watch at times because anyone who has ever experienced the cancer deathbed vigil that happens in a family while someone is dying understands all too well what a challenging experience this is. As the film looks at the familial structure and decisions that are made, it’s honest and truthful.
The film has a great ensemble cast, which also includes Jennifer Hudson as their nurse, Terrence Howard as their doctor, Amy Adams as Jonathan’s old girlfriend and Anne Archer as the mother.
However, the film falters a bit when it tries to bring the story back around to Jonathan. The film is about the family, and the focus really shouldn’t be on him specifically. In particular, it ends with a scene that brings his character in focus but actually abandons the emotional context of the rest of the family, and that made me feel a bit cheated.
Also, Jonathan’s interaction with Meredith is one of the most interesting elements of the film, but she only comes and goes through scenes occasionally. I understand the filmmakers didn’t want this to be her story, but I found her the most interesting story element that Jonathan deals with. I would have liked to have seen more of her in this movie.
In the end, “Lullaby” is not an easy film to watch, but it is worth watching.