50/50: A Health Communication Theory Analysis

Warning: this post is full of spoilers because I had to analyze it for a class.

In the beginning of the movie Adam, the main character, goes for a seemingly normal run, until he starts to experience a piercing pain in his lower back. He goes to the doctor to get the persistent pain checked out and his doctor breaks the news to him that he has a rare form of spinal cancer. At the doctors appointment Adam shows perceived susceptibility to get a disease such as cancer, “That doesn’t make any sense though. I mean… I don’t smoke, I don’t drink… I recycle…”. The story also involves perceived severity because of how rare his form of cancer is and the fact that once he does some of his own research into the disease that his survival rates are 50/50. Hence the title.

When Adam starts his chemotherapy he initially  pushes away his mom and dad from trying to help him and from getting too close when

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he needed them the most. The only people that helped him in the beginning of his illness were his friend Kyle who used  his desire to get laid and to pimp out Adam at the same time too as a coping mechanism.  When Adam starts going to see the counselor he plays it off as calm, cool and collected but his nonverbals say otherwise, so his counselor tries to reach out and comfort him-literally, “touching promotes trus

t among practicioners and patients.”.

When the effects of chemotherapy start taking hold of Adam his girlfriend doesn’t know how to respond to it at all because it scares her. So, in order to cope with it all she cheats on Adam and his best friend Kyle witnesses it. Which is for the better because she never went in to Adam’s chemo treatments with him because she didn’t “want to mix the energy” of their home life and his disease. Adam finds catharsis in destroying a painting that his now ex-girlfriend made for him with Kyle.

Adam’s therapist uses motivational interviewing to try to get Adam to really open up and tell her what he is really feeling during the entire process that he’s going through.   He begins to realize that his chances are really small when he finds out that one of his chemotherapy buddies has passed away after just seeing him with his wife and smiling.  His therapist gives what he’s feeling a name; the alienation phase which is the first psychological phase of dealing with cancer and it’s effects.

Since Adam doesn’t have a drivers license he relies on his friend to take him to all of his doctor appointments since his girlfriend is no longer in the picture. He also starts to talk to his otherwise alienated and overbearing mom once he finds out that she has been going to a support group for parents with children that have cancer. His mom’s overbearingness stems from her love for him and because she is having a hard time dealing with his dad’s progressively degenerating Alzheimer’s and his life-threatening cancer.

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Adam and his parents go to his last doctors appointment in which they discuss if the chemotherapy has been working and it didn’t so serious surgery is needed. Adam’s mom criticizes the doctors credentials because he went to a state school and she wants the best care for her son. The night before the surgery Adam and Kyle go to an old hangout to reflect on everything up until this point in their lives and Kyle gets drunk and can’t drive. So, Adam grabs the keys and begins to drive his frustrations with his life out-literally.  He eventually stops the car and breaks down and decided to call his therapist and finally come clean about his frustrations.  In doing so he finds comraderie, strength and love in her voice.

He finally gets Kyle home and while washing his hands in the bathroom he finds a book that Kyle had bought about how to help your friend going through a disease and how to help yourself get through it. in that moment Adam realizes that Kyle’s selfishness and pre-occupation with getting laid were just his defense mechanisms to deal with the fact that he’s really hurting for his friend.

On the day of Adam’s surgery the interaction between Kyle and Adam is very manly and subtle, but you can tell that there is pain and love there. Before Kyle goes to park the car Adam gives him a big hug (because of the books) and the go their separate ways.

Right as the doctor is about to administer anethesia Adam breaks down in his mom’s arms about how scared he is and how much he loves his parents. The fact that his first major surgery is also one that can either save him or kill him is terrifying him, and he doesn’t think that the medicine will keep him down for the duration of the surgery.

During Adam’s surgery while Kyle and Adam’s parents are in the waiting room Katherine, Adam’s therapist, comes into the room to wait for news. While there she hears Kyle talking to Adam’s mom reassuring her that he’ll be fine because they are all nervous and scared. Katherine introduces herself and tells them that he’s in the best hands possible because his surgeon is the best in the country.

Finally, the surgeon comes out and tells the family how Adam’s surgery went. At first she makes it seem like he had passed away because of the somber look on her face when she first comes out of the OR.  She says that there were some minor complications and that his recovery will be a slow one. Kyle who has been hoping for the best but expecting the worst for his friend asks the doctor why she never led with telling them that he made it through in the first place.

While Adam is in recovery he has help dressing his wound by his mother and Kyle, even though it visibly grosses Kyle out to see his friend’s scar he still comes through and helps to dress his wound because he loves him and that’s what friends do.

See trailer here: 50/50

All images provided by Google images


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