By my count there are four films that you can watch on Instant right now depicting love stories featuring characters with terminal illnesses. Falling Overnight (2011), directed by Conrad Jackson and set in Los Angeles, takes the crown for the least treacly of the bunch.
Twentysomething internet entrepreneur Elliot (Parker Croft) has a brain tumor. It is the day before he is to have a major operation, and he’s leading, from what we can tell, a kind of dreary existence. He’s ignoring his friend’s phone calls, his family is mysteriously not around, and it seems he’s cut himself off from the world.
After vomiting (a result of headaches he gets from his brain condition) on his way home from his pre-surgery doctor’s visit, Elliot runs into a cafe to wash up. Once out of the bathroom, he and the young woman behind the counter, Chloe (Emilia Zoryan), engage in some chit chat while he waits for a smoothie that she makes for him. She is having a photography show tonight. He should come, she says before quickly changing the subject.
Later that night, Elliot gets into bed, has trouble sleeping and decides to venture out to Chloe’s art show. And from there our, or rather, their night officially begins.
One of the more popular criticisms of this film up on Netflix reviews is that the leads engage in too much inane chatter, some of it murmured and hard to make out. Personally, I never can connect with romantic films where the characters speak in full paragraphs and talk wittily about heavy subjects. Richard Linklater’s Before Sunrise movies come to mind.
When he finds Chloe at her art show, Elliot doesn’t tell her about his tumor or the surgery; that comes much later. For now they’re conversation is what you might expect from a first date. Awkward.
And yes after some time spent listening to the two stumble around for things to say, you’re ready to move on, and the film proceeds to take us on a couple of nice adventures that all feel like they really could happen.
In my favorite, Chloe and Elliot are riding bikes in the dark after a party at her house. It’s a beautiful night and they are laughing, but then a car pulls up next to them. It’s a couple of frat boy types and one of them says something offensive to Chloe.
Chloe turns her bike around and makes like the two should just go in the other direction. But Elliot does something brave, and awesome — getting up close to the car and suddenly slapping the guy in the face — before they do.
Later, they’re hiding near some bushes, hoping they have eluded the dudes in the car. “I’m kinda crazy right now,” Elliot says, looking shocked about what he just did.
They’re both grinning, their hearts no doubt thumping away in their chests. Then Chloe kisses him on the cheek. ***