The Oscars were held last Sunday and it was full of surprises. Following the successes of the Dallas Buyers Club and Silver Linings Playbook from more recent years, the trend of outstanding films based about victims of disease continued. Here are three films that did an incredible job detailing the struggle of living with disease, highlighting the effect on their victim and those around them:
The Theory of Everything: Based on the life of Stephen Hawking and his struggle with a form of ALS. After the initial diagnosis in 1963, doctors gave him two years to live. Despite insurmountable odds he is still alive today, and considered to be one of the foremost experts in physics. Eddie Redmayne and Felicity Jones both brilliantly played their rolls showing the toll that the disease took on both the physicist and his wife, Jane Wilde Hawking—with both Dr. Hawking and his ex wife stating that there were several times throughout the film where they thought the actors were them. The film was nominated for numerous awards, and Eddie Redmayne took home the Academy Award for best actor.
Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS), often called Lou Gehrig’s disease, is a motor neuron disease that causes rapid degeneration in the ability for the brain to initiate and control muscle movement. Though the disease is quite rare, it is devastating for its victims, who quickly become paralyzed completely. Last summer, the Ice Bucket Challenge raised significant awareness and funds for ALS via social media, if you would like to donate to help the cause visit the ALS Association.
Still Alice: Based on the book “Still Alice” written by Lisa Genoa, the film tells the story of a college professor suffering from early-onset Alzheimer’s disease. The film highlights the daily struggle of Dr. Alice Howland and the toll the disease takes on her mind, family and career. Many living with dementia lauded the film as a “shockingly accurate” description of the progression of the disease and the toll it takes on both the victim and their family. The film received great reviews and won numerous awards including taking the Golden Globe and Academy Award for best Actress (Julianne Moore).
Alzheimer’s affects millions of people suffering as well as their families. An estimated 200,000 Americans in the US are suffering from early onset Alzheimer’s. Alzheimer’s is not a well-understood disease, and is the most common form of dementia. A progressive disease, it gets worse over time and affects the areas of the brain that deal with memory, language, and thought. There is currently no cure for Alzheimer’s and funding for research has often been accused of not getting the attention it deserves. If you wish to make a donation to help fund research, visit the Alzheimer’s Association.
Wild: Wild is the story about a woman who goes on a trek of self-discovery after her mom’s death. Based on the book by Cheryl Strayed, “Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail”, Reese Witherspoon stars as a drug addicted, clinically depressed individual, who struggles to cope with these issues amongst grief. She was nominated for numerous awards for the film.
Mental illness affects millions of Americans around the US, from depression to addiction it manifests in many forms. We’ve discussed this in our blog about Movember and Mental Health Awareness. Check out the National Alliance on Mental Illness, they have great information about ways you can help, from donating to spreading awareness.
Films allow us to see the effect these diseases have on others—bringing awareness to the problems that effect so many. As these types of films continue to do so well in popular culture, we can only hope it will bring more attention to these diseases and, perhaps eventually, help find a cure.