Released: 22th February
Seen: 23rd February
Originally, I was planning to see a movie called Lords of Chaos, a thriller about a Norwegian Black Metal band. I didn’t know much about it, other than it was inspired by an actual band and involved suicide, murder, arson and other shocking concepts. I was going to go see that but since I don’t make money from this and don’t get critic screenings a cost factor kicked in and I decided it wasn’t worth it so instead I ended up watching a movie about a man slowly dying of cancer… which, shockingly, was way more enjoyable sounding than the movie about the Norwegian Black Metal band.
Paddleton is a story of two men. Michael (Mark Duplass) is a young man who has just gotten a diagnosis of incurable cancer and Andy (Ray Romano) is his best friend who is there to help Michael through this. Since the thought of going through chemotherapy in order to slow down an inevitable death sounds intolerable to Michael, he gets a prescription for a specific medication that will allow him the chance to die with dignity. Unfortunately, due to the religious beliefs of medical professionals who run pharmacies who somehow believe their belief system is more important than the wellbeing of people who come to them to get medication, the only place Michael can get this medication is far enough away that it requires a long road trip so he and Andy drive together to go collect the drugs, leading to the two of them having to slowly face the idea of mortality.
There’s a lot about this film that I can really get on board with. It’s basically a two-hander for the entire film so we get to spend a lot of time just watching this charming little friendship between two men who talk about random things, have nice little in-jokes and explore the complexities of their relationship. There’s a sweetness that just goes throughout the film and makes it enjoyable to watch. The two leads create such realistic people that you get to know and build the relationship so effortlessly that by the time we get to where this kind of movie inevitably ends, the emotional resonance is so strong it leads to some of the most powerful moments in the film.
Sadly, this film also suffers from being really slow. I get why they’re doing it, they’re trying to use the slow pacing of the story in order to allow the relationship to shine a little more and be more realistic but what it kind of ended up doing was make me want to grab my phone and start playing Stardew Valley while the more boring bits happened. A lot of the comedy in this film is more like cringe comedy, a scene where they’re buying the drugs has Andy loudly calling the bank and getting exasperated in the background and constantly interrupting while Michael tries to hear how he’s meant to take the medication because there’s a very specific way it needs to be done. This kind of joke happens a few times and maybe I just have an aversion to this kind of comedy but none of it worked and just felt like it was the actors ad-libbing. Not to mention that the actual complexities of the right to die with dignity are brushed over, the idea that certain pharmacies won’t do certain things because of their religion is maybe one line of dialogue in the film. There’s heavy material here that should probably at least be slightly addressed but it’s brushed aside because we need a scene where the two men sit naked in a hot tub with a receptionist.
Paddleton is certainly a sweet film with a few heartfelt moments that can hit that sweet spot of emotion in just the right way. It’s got some consistency problems and is so slow that there are parts where it can make the viewer lose interest, but it’s got some moments to it to make it a nice sweet simple film that you can enjoy for a good 90 minutes… and it’s a step up from the last time Netflix made a movie about a cancer patient, so we’re having a good time all around.