Foreverland digs into the details of living with cystic fibrosis
Starring Max Thieriot and Laurence Leboeuf. Rated G. Opens Friday, June 15, at the Fifth Avenue Cinemas
A recurring motif in the new Canadian film Foreverland is salt, from the central character’s shaker collection to the ocean itself. It is apt not just as a reference to the central illness in the film, cystic fibrosis (the degenerative lung disease whose sufferers have severely elevated sodium in their sweat); it’s also a perfect symbol for the movie’s salty tone and the way it adeptly avoids the saccharine-sweet.
In fact, almost everything feels right about the way the understated Max Thieriot brings the sardonic 21-year-old character of Will to life. Knowing that some people with CF don’t make it into their third decade, Will has given up on ever finding a job or a relationship: “Who wants to get involved with someone who has an expiry date?” In the movie’s most blackly comic scenes, he even tries out coffins at the local undertaker’s (a creepy Matt Frewer).
It’s when his last friend with CF, Bobby (Thomas Dekker), dies that Will has to pull himself out of his funk. As part of the settling of his estate, Bobby has asked Will to take his ashes to sprinkle in a, yes, salt pond at a Mexican healing shrine. Bobby’s sister, Hannah (Laurence Leboeuf), will join him on his first trip away from home.
From there, the movie turns into a more predictable road movie, with the requisite weirdo cameos, including a deranged tow-truck driver and Juliette Lewis as a loopy but sinister estranged aunt.
Along the way, Will, of course, learns to live, and love, again. But the movie is actually at its best digging into the details of his daily existence with CF and the constant feeling that he’s been “slowly drowning” his whole life (details that could have only come from someone who has lived with CF, like director Maxwell McGuire). There’s the irony of falling into a coughing jag blowing out the single candle on his birthday cake, or the overprotective mom who can tell when his hack is becoming “soupy”.
Things feel more forced when the couple hits the road (in fact, they stall, including a thread about a baby-blue Mustang that is all but abandoned). Foreverland has style, character, and smarts, but it loses its way until Mexico—when it finally catches its breath again.
Watch the trailer for Foreverland.