a bowl of popcorn

Having an illness is often a very traumatic experience and being a caretaker of someone in this position can be difficult and emotion-inducing. In these instances, it becomes really important to see depictions of a slice of life for people with illnesses and how that affects their lives and the loved ones, in cinema. Below, I have compiled a list of recent films that shine a light on illnesses in ways that are raw, real, emotional and enlightening.

 1. Still Alice

Still Alice is a touching film about a renowned linguistic professor, Alice Howland, who has been diagnosed with Early-Onset Alzheimer’s Disease and her journey with the loss of her once beloved words. Alice is not alone in her struggle however, her family– three grown children and her husband– help her through heartache and remind her that she has their help the whole way. It is an exemplary tale of dealing with Alzheimer’s and how caregivers could help with support and love.


2. The Fault in Our Stars

The Fault in our stars is a book-to-movie drama centered around teens,Hazel and Augustus. Hazel has cancer and Augustus has a prosthetic leg. Through their illnesses they find strength and love in each other. It’s a heart-warming movie that accurately depicts what it is like to live with these conditions and what it takes to get through life on a daily basis.



3. Reign Over Me 

Charlie Fineman, the main character, suffers from PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) after losing his family in the 9/11 attack. He quits everything and recedes into himself. His old college friend, Johnson,comes into his life by chance, and through friendship and determination, and recruitment of a therapist, Johnson helps Charlie come out of seclusion and into some semblance of happiness.

4. Silver Linings Playbook

Pat Solitano, the main character, is ordered to move back with parents after a past incident and is diagnosed with Bi-Polar disorder. Pat tries to deal with his disorder, and the audience is privy to the effects of the disease. Pat also ends up in a strange relationship with Tiffany, who also suffers from depression. Together, they look for happiness and a place to feel less weighed down from their conditions and diseases.



5. A Separation

A married couple are faced with many challenges in their decision-making when it comes to providing a new, better life, while also caring for a deteriorating parent who has Alzheimer’s disease.



6. Ocean Heaven

The story is one about unconditional love. A terminally ill father helps his autistic son learn the necessities for life on his own. It is a movie that gives tribute to the love parents show to their children and how they are willing to give them support and guidance, no matter the circumstance.



7. The Diving Bell and the Butterfly

This film is a real-life account of a journalist who was left paralyzed in all parts of body but his left eye, after experiencing a massive stroke. Besides having Locked-in Syndrome, he is also non-verbal. Through this,his ex-lover, new-lover/mother of his children, and family, all come together to help him with his illness. It’s a film that explains the inner thoughts of those with the condition and how family can help their loved one through hardship.


8. 50/50

50/50 takes a different approach to cancer by taking a comedic and offbeat approach to dealing with the disease. Adam, the main character, with the help of his best friend, mother and therapist, finds out what really means the most to him in his short time left of life.



9. Matching Jack

Though the story is not new, what saves this film is the acting. It follows the life of Marissa, the mother of her ill-son, who has leukemia. In her search to find a match for Jack’s surgery, she finds love and happiness in an unexpected way.



Though there are sometimes moments of doubt and uncertainty in caretaking, seeing depictions of this in films is a great way to learn more about the diseases or conditions, bring attention to people in these situations and offer some support, guidance, and understanding to those who need it. It is a piece of Hollywood that says: you are not alone.

Written by Amber Oliver
Amber Oliver is a graduating Senior at The City College of New York majoring in English and Creative Writing. She is also active on campus as a member of various student clubs such as the Creative Writing Club, Strive for College as a mentor for low-income students and secretary of the Black Student Union, responsible for communication and member outreach. She is also enrolled in the Publishing Certificate Program. She is currently interning at The Caregiver Space. She is interested in laughter, equality, music, literature, traveling, health, and of course, caregiving in all of its forms. She looks forward to entering the publishing field, after graduation.

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