Stopped On Track

Stopped On Track

***1/2

Reviewed by: Jennie Kermode

Frank (Milan Peschel) is dying of brain cancer. This is not a spoiler. We are with him and his wife Simone (Steffi Kühnert) when they receive the diagnosis at the start of the film. What follows is an intimate study of their experience during those last few months, along with the experiences of their family members.

There are no surprises here - indeed, part of what the film addresses is how we deal with predetermined events in our lives, as much as with death itself. The difficulty here is that, whilst the story draws on a collection of real life experiences, it is inevitable that people deal with these things very differently in real life, and there is a danger that the conventionality of this approach - with its formal support networks, its neat nuclear family and its stages of grief - can become prescriptive. Director Dresen allows his characters only brief deviations from this format. When they come, they're a relief, a source of much-needed humour and a chance to connect with the characters emotionally on a deeper level.

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Aside from that, the hard work is left to the actors. Peschel delivers a superb physical performance, carrying Frank through the gradual and irregular process of losing control as his cerebellum and then his cerebrum are compressed by the malignant tumour. It's a carefully observed piece of work that ensures Frank retains his humanity all the way to the end, even as he becomes confused and exhausted and his agency diminishes. Meanwhile, Kühnert is solid as the dedicated but frustrated carer and young Mika Seidel makes an impressive big screen debut as their son.

It's difficult to know who the film is aimed at. Most people with immediate experience of this type of situation will find it hard going, whilst others may reasonably prefer not to consider the subject. It could, however, provide a useful guide for those dealing with it at more remove, such as work colleagues - again, assuming that they're wary of the prescriptive approach.

Stopped On Track uses real medical professionals to play its fictional ones, sticking as closely to the facts as possible as regards how such illnesses are managed. There are no problems with the acting resulting from this. It's seamlessly delivered; it just doesn't seem to have much to say.

Reviewed on: 12 Feb 2012
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A raw, compelling study what happens to a ordinary family when a husband and father becomes terminally ill.
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Director: Andreas Dresen

Writer: Andreas Dresen, Cooky Ziesche

Starring: Steffi Khnert, Milan Peschel, Talisa Lilli Lemke, Mika Nilson Seidel

Year: 2011

Runtime: 110 minutes

Country: Germany


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