When it comes to staples of the “weepie” genre, if it is a genre at all, few subjects are tackled with as much frequency as cancer. Such is the case with New Life, however the film doesn’t deliver in particularly engaging fashion. New Life stars Jonathan Patrick Moore as Ben Morton and Erin Bethea as his childhood neighbour and later wife Ava, following them through the trials and tribulations of married life, pregnancy and later Ava’s diagnosis of cancer.
The film doesn’t go out of its way to throw any new conventions or truly shocking twists into the plot and frankly it’s to its detriment. The film does touch on a number of separate milestones for Ben and Ava as a couple but it’s in a very straightforward, almost episodic manner. To be fair, these are not the kind of films you reach for when it comes to reinventing the wheel. Their engagement with the audience is more on an emotive level but the film breezes at such a blistering pace you get little time to deal with emotional ramifications or sympathising with the characters. There’s little breathing room and so you’re left not really caring very much about their ordeal. The film’s first twenty minutes also feel too lackadaisical. There’s still that structure, but no real point and the stagey presentation do give off the air you’re watching a succession of adverts rather than a feature film.
For what it’s worth, the cast have moments for being engaging but their success varies from role to role. Erin Bethea puts in a good performance and, brief as it is, veteran character actor Bill Cobbs also steals the show in a very brief monologue that still manages to standout. Fellow TV mainstay Terry O’Quinn also puts in an appearance as a standoffish doctor and James Masters (yes, Spike from Buffy The Vampire Slayer) is Ben’s dad. On that note, it’s interesting to point out that the American film’s two British characters are both played by non-Brits (John Patrick Moore is Australian) and whilst the accents just manage to be passable, it’s strange that Ben has seemingly lived in the US since early childhood but still has a purely English accent. I’m not sure if that’s normal.
If I were to recommend this film, I would recommend it largely on the occasionally impressive performances and it touching somewhat competently on a very emotionally resonant and relatable subject. The film does on occasion drop the ball when it comes to moments with more sentimental importance, going through real moments of drama with way too much speed or insight but those of a more sensitive disposition may find themselves moved by a couple of the film’s better moments when it comes to drama. Those factors aside though, New Life is a pretty generic film that offers nothing new nor does it really excel at familiar territory. It simply is just a brief and probably forgettable feature.
New Life is available on digital download from Monday, November 20th; rated PG. Check out the trailer below.