DAY 10: BREATHING LESSONS

by thepingofpong

The second Belgian film at the European Film Festival, Adem (Oxygen) relates a tale of a headstrong young man facing imminent death as a result of cystic fibrosis.

With a young sufferer, Tom, as the focal point, Adem, explores the attitude of young people facing imminent death: Xavier who wants to live life fully but is scared of having kids knowing he his time with them will be short; Anneleen, Xavier’s girlfriend who insists on having a family and is determined to have and keep a baby and Eline, a young woman admitted in an isolation room and with whom Tom starts a romance. This last, provides the film with most of its tender moments including a memorable kiss via the glass partition.

Tom’s character is rebellious but it is really the desperation of a young man with a foreknowledge of his own demise. He steals, he is involved in a drug racket with a friend— the brash Jimmy who provides the film the only semblance of a villain and may perhaps be the very one who, though healthy, is most unfit for the world outside— but is still a character that demands empathy.

Ordinarily, the very nature of this film should submerge it in a whirlpool of sentimentality as most films dealing with the subject of death. But Adem destroys such expectations and instead provides a tale that is as much a coming of age tale accessible by everybody as much as it is one about youth mortality. And that is an achievement considering how easy it will be to milk the tears from the audience’s tear ducts.

Maybe, it is because director, Hans Van Nuffel is also a sufferer of cystic fibrosis, one lives the movie with optimism despite its open-ended ending.

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