I wish I'd met you before we were dead.
Intellectual mechanic Carter (Morgan Freeman) and hospital magnate Edward (Jack Nicholson) couldn't be less alike, except for one thing: they are both diagnosed with terminal lung cancer and given a few months to live. While idling in the same hospital room, they slowly become friends. While undergoing treatment, Carter begins an old exercise he was once given: write a "bucket list", a list of things to do before you kick the bucket (as it were). Edward picks up the tempo on this list, and suddenly the two men take the list seriously. Through trips around the world, skydiving and car-racing adventures, and games of gin rummy (which Carter seems to be a dab hand at), the two gentlemen live out their last months to the fullest, according to the list.
Spoilers follow: Comedy-drama never got better, or more different. In fact, the first thing that struck me was the ending. It's not sad, it's not happy, it's ambiguous. I mean, they have cancer and they're certainly going to die, so we're not surprised or saddened when they do die; yet, no death can be happy. That said, the film was always a mixture of upbeat and melancholy (which is what good comedy-drama should do, anyway).
The film is a perfect portrayal of the five stages of grief:
- Denial: early on in the film, the two gentlemen discuss the five stages, and both say they're in the denial stage.
- Anger: Edward's anger at Carter later in the film, just after they return to the States, and Virginia's anger at Edward throughout the first half of the film.
- Bargaining: This one isn't quite as obvious. When Carter's cancer metastasises, Edward wants to know if the cancer is operable.
- Depression: Several points in the film, including the two gentlemen receiving the news, Edward realising he's alone, and the subsequent deaths of the two.
- Acceptance: Most of the film is about accepting the gentlemen's inexorable deaths.
I loved this film. It wasn't a feel-good film, it wasn't a saddening drama, it wasn't action adventure; and yet it was all three at the same time. It was a good picture of how people can make something good come from impending death, how people can find the light in even the darkest situation, and how life (or, rather, lack thereof) can completely change someone. The first time I saw the film, it was heart-warming. Subsequent times, it's been a great little film that I've introduced to other people, with positive response. I think it's the theme of death that makes it good (not in a macabre way, mind you); yet, personally, when I saw the film, I was hoping, wishing, almost willing to believe that Carter and Edward would stay alive during the entire film...
My rating: 9.5/10. A more touching film you will not find in this day and age.