With his first film, young writer/director Matt Creed tackles a very life-altering subject, cancer treatments, except instead of focusing on the common late-life cancer patients Lily looks at the life of a twenty-something woman who is finishing her treatment for breast cancer.
Lily is played by the screenplay’s co-writer Amy Grantham (who, like Lily, is a cancer survivor — you can check out her inspiring Tumblr account here), who has inquisitive eyes buried behind a long, full, brown wig, which she is so much prettier without. She is nearing the end of her breast cancer treatments, but she is running out of money and cannot find a job. For some time she has been living with Aaron (Simon Chaput), a much older man, and helping him raise his two young children.
I found the first fifty minutes or so of Lily rather tedious. Lily’s life at this point is a very routine series of treatments and taking care of Aaron’s kids. The few moments she has to herself are devoted to listening to her rather odd cassette tape collection and trying to learn how to tap dance. On that note, I’m not sure why so many indie films go for learning how to dance as an angle. Though I’ve seen this so many times in indie films in the last few years, I think now that the hoopla of Silver Linings Playbook has come and gone dancing as a metaphor for happiness/accomplishment/getting one’s life together/etc. should be officially retired for a decade or so.
Anyway, Lily begins to pick up in the last forty minutes when Lily comes to the realization that she is not happy. She is bored of her idle life as a stay-at-home surrogate mom and artist, and even more uncomfortable with her relationship with Aaron. She is out of place in the pretentious dinner conversations of not only Aaron’s friends, but between her mother and stepfather (which are two of the film’s best scenes). Her stepfather keeps her mother, who is also a breast cancer survivor, on a tight leash — he even belittles her about the amount of plants they can have in the house — which foreshadows the type of life Lily would likely have with Aaron. When she was suffering from cancer Lily needed the stability and structure she found in her life with Aaron, but now that she faces an unknown future she craves the youthful unpredictability that she was denied because of her disease. She is too young to have a life this dull, especially since (as the doctor warns her about the significant risk of her cancer coming back) she might not have a long life.
Yet after this realization the film ends rather abruptly, leaving too much unresolved, like in Lily’s own life, with only a few indications of what might happen. There’s open-ended, and then there’s “we’re just going to shut the camera off, okay?” and Lily’s ending is more of the latter.
It’s mostly impressive that a relatively young and inexperienced actress like Grantham could carry this movie. Yet on that note it seems like this is a wonderful character in search of a better way to present this story. Obviously cancer treatments are dramatic and interesting, yet Lily’s bored idleness resembles so many other “quarter life crisis” movies about lost twenty-somethings. The cancer element should elevate this movie so much more, yet strangely it doesn’t. Perhaps more scenes of Lily interacting with others and less scenes of her wandering about New York City on her own or being cooped up in her apartment would’ve helped this. After all, it’s clear she is lost — we don’t need to see her wandering in circles on the streets to drive this point home.
I would like to say Lily gives people with cancer hope on the better days that follow… except this film seems to have the exact opposite message! I’m not sure how I feel about that approach, but I certainly don’t think it’s inspiring, which makes it harder to swallow.
RATING: An odd angle on a cancer survivor’s struggles returning to “normal” life (5.5/10).
Tribeca Film Festival Screenings
April 26 7:00 PM AMC Loews Village 7