Director Lana Reed’s Forbearance, written by Cedric Gegel, focuses on life, death, and second chances in a small town, all while divorce papers loom in the background, just waiting to be found. Callie (Juli Tapken) is filing divorce papers the day before discovering her husband, Josh (Travis Hancock), has been diagnosed with stage-four lung cancer and given six months to live. Upon discovering her husband’s condition, Callie leaves the papers in a folder and decides to put her filing on hold. They may have a beyond strained marriage, but the two try to make it work one last time in light of Josh’s condition.
Despite his diagnosis, Josh refuses treatment, hoping to live out his remaining days working on his motorcycle, harvesting his family farm, and drinking with his best friend Bo (Paul Logan). The decision to forgo treatment only further tensions between Josh and Callie. As his condition worsens, the man is forced to reassess his relationship with his wife and their son, Jonah (Cedric Gegel). But as his illness worsens, he feels his efforts may be too late.
“Callie is filing divorce papers the day before discovering her husband…has been diagnosed with stage-four lung cancer…”
Expositionary dialogue runs heavy in Forbearance, with most character traits being spelled out to the audience rather than explored through more dynamic scenes. The emotions are weighty throughout, but they should be in a story concerning mortality in the face of cancer. There are moments where Gegel’s screenplay dives into sappy territory, but it’s all well within the assumed limit of a feel-good but still makes you cry kind of narrative.
The premise is undoubtedly the most prominent selling point. A dying man in a failing marriage is a strong starting point for an inspiring drama or slice-of-life film such as this. The script has a good sense of the overall story and features many compelling themes. Unfortunately, unnecessary sub-plots and weak dialogue prevent the film from elevating itself beyond its genre. Strictly on a pure setting, characters, climax, and conclusion, this is a solid film. But how we get to those story elements ultimately holds the production back.
Forbearance has flaws, more than it should, but for fans of this style of film, it will be a satisfying watch. The moral dilemmas of a now-loveless marriage amid cancer is a heart-wrenching topic, and the film handles it well. The themes of trying to make amends at the end of life, owning your flaws, and just dealing with death are all nicely fleshed out and are the best moments the film has to offer. However, the rough dialogue and unnecessary subplots make this less than an ideal watch. But, the film proudly displays its semi-inspirational tear-jerker heart on its sleeve and will even give you a few life questions to ponder as the credits roll.