There's a scene about fifteen minutes into director James Kicklighter's short doc A Few Things About Cancer where Caleb Mock, a newlywed who has been diagnosed with Stage IV Burkitt's Lymphoma, is in his hospital room alongside his wife, Jada, and talking about the challenges of life in the hospital including that twin bed that makes a non-cuddler become a cuddler. Then, he looks at his wife and says "You've been there for me all the way" and she replies "Always" with this look of absolute love and devotion.
It's a simple and beautiful scene in a 25-minute short film that could have easily become nothing more than another "disease of the month" film. The film had its premiere at L.A.'s recent FirstGlance Film Festival where it picked up the prize for Best Short Documentary.
There is much to like about how Kicklighter approaches the filming of A Few Things About Cancer, but mostly it comes down to his ability to capture both the intimacy and personal nature of the story and his awareness that there's universal messages about hope and perseverance unfolding here.
It's not really that surprising that this film is a poignant one. After all, how could it not be? It may be surprising that it possesses such a warm and loving spirit despite much of the film taking place within the confines of the hospital. In all likelihood, that has much to do with Caleb and Jada, the kind of couple who make even the most jaded relationship cynic (me!) become a believer. Kicklighter doesn't shy away from the more challenging parts of the journey, though he avoids a lot of the gratuitous exploitation that can be so common with this kind of film.
I mean, seriously, I still haven't forgotten about Tom Green's testicle.
A Few Things About Cancer isn't actually about cancer, or at least to me it wasn't. For me, A Few Things About Cancer was about life and love and relationships and priorities and, as Tim McGraw might say, livin' like we're dyin'. While it is worth nothing that Kicklighter and Mock were friends prior to filming, this is one of those cases where I think that pre-existing relationship complemented the filmmaking journey quite nicely. In fact, if there's an aspect of the film that doesn't work as well it would be the occasionally utilized transition scenes that linger just a hair too long and, at least once or twice, utilize less convincing special effects that feel jarringly artificial given the rich humanity that dominates the film.
A Few Things About Cancer is continuing on its film festival journey. If you get a chance, check it out because, strangely enough, it'll leave you feeling a whole lot better about life and make you want to run home and wrap your arms around those you love.