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Review: Awake in a Bad Dream (2013)

Directed by: Lataster, | 110 minutes |

It’s every woman’s nightmare, even as a man you know that. The breast lump, the doctor, the exam, the hope, the diagnosis. If the diagnosis turns out wrong, a new process follows, with new examination, surgery, radiotherapy, chemotherapy and, in the best case, the long road to full recovery. Anyone who makes a documentary about this misery can safely call it “Awake in a bad dream”. Because that’s what it is.

“Wake up in a bad dream” takes us with three women who are diagnosed with breast cancer. We follow a young hairdresser, mother of two, who hopes for breast-saving surgery and a successful chemotherapy. We see a middle-aged woman who has to accept an inevitable mastectomy. And there is a 59-year-old whose tumor has unexpectedly come back.

The director’s couple Peter and Petra Lataster are close to the characters, with the people portrayed opening up completely to the duo. The camera records, occasionally accompanied by comments from the women. We experience the entire process, both in the hospital and at home and on vacation. Because the starting situation differs for each of the three, the covers the full breadth of the disease process. The documentary is mainly about the emotional rollercoaster that the women end up in, much less about the medical aspects of the disease.

Inevitably, this delivers an intense viewing experience, but less depressing than you might expect. What the film shows above all is that the disruptive power of the disease is offset by the enormous mental resilience of the women and the emotional comfort of partners, friends and colleagues. The love of husbands, who subordinate their own troubles and fears. The warmth of colleagues, present when they are needed.

Whoever looks at “Awake in a Bad Dream” sees man as the social creature that he still is even in this hyper-individualized world. The creature that gets help and attention in times of crisis without asking. It doesn’t make this documentary a feel-good movie, but it is all moving and comforting. Despite that wretched illness.

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