Movies about cancer and dying are a tough sale. Yes , “The Fault In Our Stars” is a mega hit, but that has the whole Romeo & Juliet thing for going for it and the book is a young adult best seller- so that one had a huge hungry target audience.
“Lullaby” hits close to home for so many families. Either now, the past or sometime in the future. Doctor-assisted suicide is a hot topic . It’s a current issue in several state legislatures. This one takes it head on , along with the subsequent family dynamics.
The go-to guy amonh character actors, Richard Jenkins, takes center stage as the wealthy dying patriarch of a family of four. He’s had cancer for 12 long years . Now on a ventilator and bed-ridden, he has made the decision that his life is no longer worth living. The family is called to the hospital to get the news. Jenkins has never been finer. He is bedridden for all but one scene. His face has to tell much of his story. His humor is intact (yes- there is comic relief) and his mind is sharp.
At the heart of the story is the tense relationship with his only son, played by Garrett Hedland of “Tron:Legacy” , “Friday Night Lights” and “Country Strong” with Gwyneth Paltrow). The strong supporting cast has little to do: Amy Adams (in an itty bitty role as the love of his life who got away) , Terence Howard (the doctor), and Anne Archer (the cheated-on wife in “Fatal Attraction”) , who this time plays a pretty-much one note sad loving wife who easily forgives her hubby’s long ago affair. Jennifer Hudson gives us most of the comic relief as the floor nurse who doesn’t mince words . Strange that in a huge New York City hospital on a private floor, she’s the sole nurse in attendance. Jessica Brown Findlay of “Downton Abbey” fame is the spoiled lawyer-daughter, who actually goes to court to try to stops her dad from ending his life. That whole story line feels a little stilted along with the dad cutting out of his will his only two kids , in order to teach the spoiled brats a lesson. And who was it again who spoiled the brats???
The best reasons to see this film: Richard Jenkins and the pretty much unknown Jessica Barden, as a terminally ill cancer patient who’s wise well beyond her years. This is a young actress who needs to be seen more.