I would like to juxtapose two movies that I watched earlier this month. Both had solid plotlines that connect with life as a 21st century human being. They also focus on the good men in our society, an often overlooked population. Yet the moral backgrounds of these films were dimensionally opposed. They express the desperation that comes when life appears to be ripped from your control, but while one story reveals the hope that comes from discovering one’s purpose for existence, the other only peels back another layer of emptiness.
50/50, starring Joseph Gordon-Levitt as Adam and rated R for profanity and sexuality (and thus I cannot recommend it to anyone unless they obtain an edited version) hits home for anyone who has been touched with cancer. The main character seems to be a truly decent fellow with a sincerely gentle heart and a desire for quality living. He is in the prime of life at the age of twenty-seven, is moving forward in his relationship with his girlfriend, and is advancing in his career. He is satisfied with the direction of his life – and then the unthinkable happens: a diagnosis of a rare form of cancer. Adam is catapulted into the worst kind of changes: endless doctor appointments, awkward condolences from friends, family, and coworkers, and the callous attack of chemo on his young and vibrant frame. He forces himself to remain stoic when he discovers the true character of people he relied upon; some distanced themselvs, others abandoned him. However, there are some unexpected heroes in his life and he finally allows himself to admit that. The film does a decent job of expressing the turmoil within the human heart when being diagnosed with such a serious disease; yet there was little evidence of Adam’s journey having any lasting impact on his awareness of the depth of life that usually remains when one has encountered death.
Courageous, starring Alex Kendrick also as Adam and rated PG-13 for thematic material (but one I can completely recommend), focuses on one police officer’s impact on his three friends as his placid routine of being husband and father is cataclysmically affected when tragedy strikes. At the start of the story this father does not push himself to give 100 % anywhere. He is at odds with his son and dotes on his daughter just enough to feel good about himself. He plods through life and avoids the tough questions whose answers would create ripples in his peace of mind. And then catastrophe hits, forcing him to give an account for the way he has been living. He ponders the definition of being a man and determines to no longer abandon courage, honor and integrity; instead he challenges himself and his closest friends to be the heroes the world yearns for. They realize that men of valor do not have to be limited to fairytales and war movies.
These two films excentuate men being called upon to be courageous in the face of devastation. They have an influence on those around them and how they rise to the call does make a difference for those watching them. Yet while the Adam of Courageous finds fullness of spirit in determining to be the best man he possibly can be, the Adam of 50/50 is only a little more aware of the world around him than he was at beginning of his journey.