Stopped on Track

2011 [GERMAN]

Action / Drama

IMDb Rating 7.6 10 1564

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1 hr 49 min
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Movie Reviews

Reviewed by JvH48 9 / 10

Coping with a fatal brain tumor diagnosis by friends and relatives beautifully portrayed

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.

Reviewed by suviska 8 / 10

A realistic chronology of a tumor

The movie 'Halt auf freier Strecke' draws a realistic story of a family facing a great loss. The film begins from the beginning of an end: at the clinic where a doctor gently delivers a death sentence for a father of a family.

In the story, the parents' roles are solid and their mutual relationship is pictured in a beautiful but not overly romantic way. Outsiders to the nuclear family remain uncomfortable with the thought of death throughout. Amazingly that happens even to the close ones. Only those that are facing death at the daily basis seem to be okay with the idea.

The daughter's role remains strangely distant throughout the movie. It is likely intentional from the director, as for a teenager the thought of someone's death might feel distant. However, if it were one's own father, I would imagine that the response would not necessarily be like the one pictured in the film, especially that the family seems like perfectly average.

The film is probably a great chance for going through one's feelings for anyone who has experienced a cancer death of a close person. For others, it surely is a chance to stop for 110 minutes to think what it would mean for oneself if something tragic suddenly happened in one's own life.

As a non-German viewer, it is refreshing for a change to see good movie-making from Germany motivated by something else than the currently hot "multi-kulti" topic. …and something that made me feel great at the end regardless of the theme was the soundtrack - German rock (when played at the right place at the right time) is just awesome!

Reviewed by Radu_A 8 / 10

An honest look at a topic which concerns us all

It's a German film, and it's good - hallelujah! That was pretty much my initial reaction after watching this cancer drama, before the pain set in. For when you've been in the situation the film describes, you'll go through the exact motions you may have felt when taking care of a loved one who dies. Other than just about any other film I've seen on the subject, no sappy music sets in, no brilliant actors use their characters to showcase their abilities. It's just the story of an ordinary worker with a wife and two kids who gets diagnosed with a fatal brain tumor and chronicles his last months with a camcorder.

Director-writer Andreas Dresen is a seasoned TV director and documentary film maker, which defines his visual style. But unlike most German directors, he's making the best out of his possibilities by sticking to a very naturalist mise-en-scène, focusing on creating 'special moments' which drive the story. That allows him to take the spectator's attention away from the actors. It's a style that already worked very well in 'Cloud 9', for which he received the Cannes a special Cannes 'Un Certain Regard' public prize, before winning the award itself with this film. He is, however, essentially a documentary film maker, so his best film so far is most definitely 'Herr Wichmann von der CDU' (2003), which is about a provincial election campaign.

Still, 'Stopped on Track' will probably stay with you longer than most films of the past year, as it's dealing with a reality that concerns everybody, but is usually considered taboo in film. While people die so often violently on screen, it's quite a shock to see someone die from a disease, even if it's just fictitious; so the importance of this film is to make us wonder which is the appropriate way to deal with death, a question to which it gives mature and even beautiful answers.

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