Two Against Time (2002)

Marlo Thomas and Ellen Muth in Two Against Time (2002)

Conflict, Cancer & Compassion

"Two Against Time" is one of those movies which as a reviewer leaves me conflicted due to it doing an important job of highlighting cancer as well as being based on a true story. That true story is about a mother and teenage daughter who are both diagnosed with cancer at the same time and nothing can take away from the power of that story. But whilst there is this tough drama which deals with cancer and cancer treatment "Two Against Time" is also a drama about a mother and daughter who don't see eye to eye bonding due to what they go through and it not only gives it a sentimental side but it softens the gritty side. It means that whilst there are some powerful and authentic scenes surrounding cancer some of the scenes in "Two Against Time" are softened as the family drama takes precedence making it feel less real.

As a divorced single mum Julie Portman (Marlo Thomas) not only holds down a career but is raising her son and daughter which is not that easy as whilst her son Michael (Troy Hall) is at college her daughter Emma (Ellen Muth) is a typical teen who doesn't see eye to eye with her. And when Emma is diagnosed with cancer things become even tougher as she struggles to cope with the treatment, fearful that she will die and hating it when her hair starts to fall out. But when Julie is also diagnosed with cancer it changes everything bringing mother and daughter closer than ever.

Ellen Muth and Marlo Thomas in Two Against Time (2002)

I will say this again because "Two Against Time" is based on a true story and it is a powerful story which to be honest whilst about a family dealing with cancer is really about a mother and daughter becoming close. Now there is nothing wrong with this and "Two Against Time" is one seriously touching movie with some brilliant performances and brave directing none more so when it comes to a powerful shower scene which will leave you on the edge of tears. But this movie still leaves me conflicted because basically it tries to be heart breaking and heart warming at the same time and in being so the heart warming dominates things.

So what that means is that through out "Two Against Time" we see various aspects to do with dealing with cancer from Emma's initial fears over losing her arm or worse dying to when her hair falls out and at times these scenes are tough going, none more so that in the final 15 minutes. But then at the same time we have scenes where Julie and Emma bond with Emma no longer retaliating against her mother and whilst there is no denying that this is heart warming they end up softening the harsh reality of cancer. It stops "Two Against Time" feeling authentic which is a shame because far too often a touching scene surrounding the heart breaking nature of cancer is softened by something crafted to be heart-warming and in doing so comes across a little manufactured.

Now it has to be said that during the first 10 minutes of "Two Against Time" it is hard to warm to the main characters of Julie and Emma, Julie is controlling whilst Emma comes across as spoilt and spiteful. But as the movie progresses you can't help but warm to the characters and the performances of Marlo Thomas as Julie and Ellen Muth as Emma evolve through some seriously committed acting. I am not just on about the fact that both actresses shaved their heads for the roles but the shower scene where Ellen washes a frail Julie is powerful and moving.

What this all boils down to is that I am still conflicted by "Two Against Time" because of the mix of heart-breaking and heart-warming which ends up causing the gritty drama to be softened. But it is a powerful story, powerfully acted and a movie which whilst may leave you as conflicted as I am, is well worth a watch.