Posted in art and healing, creativity and health

At The Movies…

Welcome to Art and Healing Wednesday!!

I remember seeing a book years ago called, “The Motion Picture Prescription: Watch this movie and call me in the morning”.  A great title and the book offers movie suggestions that relate to the most common life problems.  It’s amazing that in a two-hour period the writers, producers, and actors can create a situation, take you through the entire process and have a resolution.  If I could figure out how to do that in “real life”; I’d start that way of life tomorrow.

When it comes to art and healing there are two different types of films, those where the story of the illness is told and the other where a character in the film has an illness that is dealt with moving the story along.  One of the most prominent films about illness that I first saw as a child was “Brian’s Song”, telling the story of  Brian Piccolo, the football player.  The movie “Philadelphia” although about the rights of those with HIV/AIDS is about the journey Tom Hanks’ character and those around him take during the legal battle.  “Wit” tells the story of a woman with gynecological cancer.  On the flip side, Whoopi Goldberg’s character in “How Stella Got Her Groove Back” dies of cancer (sorry if you didn’t know) but it’s part of the main character’s journey not the story itself.

We often watch movies for a sense of escape or sensationalism, so why do we watch films about people with an illness?  If you have a health challenge sometimes it’s about identifying with the process the individual goes through from diagnosis to death.  It brings up questions that you might not have thought about prior to seeing the film sparking discussion.  Just like pathographies (books written about someone’s journey through illness) we are captivated by the struggle (kind of like slowing down to see an accident on the freeway). 

Now let’s get to the healing part of films.  Pick a genre, any genre and ask yourself, “Why are you attracted to this film at this time?”  Norman Cousins watched films of The Three Stooges for its laughter inducing qualities.  He found that 20 minutes of a good laugh gave him two hours of pain-free sleep.  Maybe you’re a fan of the Star Wars films, where there’s a coming of age story but first there are all these obstacles.  It’s about a hero, someone you can believe in who triumphs over evil…not a bad days work.

We watch films to laugh, learn, cry, explore, escape and a host of other reasons.  The bottom line is films are enjoyable.  We each have our own favorites.  My two all-time favorite films are “Same Time, Next Year”, and “The Color Purple”.  I’ve seen each of these movies too many times to count.  They provoke me, entertain me, and stay with me.

What’s your favorite film and why?  How do films play a part in your own health and healing journey?


I've lived my life in service to others. I'm focused on mental health and how it impacts our relationships, culture, and society. Through creative expression and narrative I believe we can impact change.

One thought on “At The Movies…

  1. Greg, love this one. Movies. I love movies. I love all genres of movies, for different reasons.
    Had a friend who once said, “I never watch movies about horse races, boxing or people dying.” He died just two weeks ago. He had the most awesome sense of humor, but did not want to feel emotion from his flicks, I guess.
    For a very long time after my breast cancer diagnosis, I would not go NEAR a film about cancer. I watched The Bucket List just a few weeks back. I LOVED that movie. I did relate to so many emotions, events etc. Just watching their journey was great. And, though the end made me cry, I must say, it did not stick with me as a downer. The spirit of the film really was very uplifting. There are songs about the topic as well. Live Like You Were Dying (Tim McGraw). That song just makes me smile!! Those two pieces reminded me that you must make the most out of the time you are given here. None of us know how long that time is. So, really, we would all do well to live like we are dying once in a while.

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