Dir: Ed Stone. US. 2006. 102mins.

A theatrical remake of a 1976 TV movie, Ed Stone's featuredebut Griffin & Phoenix never movesbeyond the narrative and emotional restrictions of a story about two people in lovedying from cancer. Stone tries his best to avoid manipulation or sentiment, butthe story is almost entirely built around incident rather than any examination ofloss and pain, resulting in little sense of discovery or breakthrough. The leadperformances from Dermot Mulroney and Amanda Peet are energetically played and fairlyrestrained emotionally, but much of the movie feels like television, flat, predictableand visually bland. Stone never makes a persuasive argument for remaking the workas a feature.

During the time of the originaltelevision show, features that examined illness were often pejoratively labelledDisease Of The Week movies. Premiering in the Discovery section at Toronto, thisSidney Kimmel Entertainment production will struggle to find any significant theatricalvisibility in an already saturated domestic market. Ironically, TV is probably itslikely destination.

The story is not that differentto Francois Ozon's recent Le Temps Qui Reste. Griffin (Mulroney), a middle-ageddivorced father, is introduced in close up nervously sitting at his doctor's office;later he is told that the lesions in his chest have spread, and that he has at mostonly a year or two to live.

His mood changes appreciablywhen he meets the beautiful and confident Phoenix (Peet), an academic adviser, ata psychological class at New York University.

The first half of the movie pivotson his romantic pursuit of her. Despite her misgivings and shifting, contradictoryactions of being both eager and unavailable, the two seem remarkably attuned tothe emotional needs of each other: Phoenix is graceful and funny, Griffin is looseand adventurous.

When Phoenix discovers a cacheof books about dying at Griffin's home she angrily confronts him, believing thathe is ridiculing her. Their argument spills out into the street, where she revealsthat she is also dying of an inoperable, unspecified form of cancer. The admissionbrings them closer together, and kickstarts their joint efforts to experience asmuch joy, fun and pleasure in what time they have left together.

Griffin & Phoenix works bestin the quiet moments observed between the two, detailing their efforts to defy socialnorms and spurn convention, such as sneaking into a movie theatre, jumping a freighttrain or painting personal messages on a watchtower.

But every time the directortries to shape the work in a darker vein - Peet angrily confronting a woman forher abusive treatment toward her children or Mulroney vandalizing a string of cars- he is defeated by the characters' awkward, unconvincing and desperate behaviour.The movie reaches its nadir when Griffin, whose cancer has made him impotent, issuddenly transformed into a stud.

The photography is muted andunderstated, emotionally tied to the film's content and theme. The editing is unobtrusive,drawn to the movements of the actors and the emotions they're conveying.

Production companies
Sidney Kimmel Entertainment (US)
Gold Circle Films (US)
Blumhouse Productions (US)

International sales
Kimmel International
(1) 212 431 5550

Executive producers
Scott Niemeyer
Bruce Toll
Norm Waitt
Cary McNair
Marina Grasic

Amy Israel
Jason Blum
Paul Brooks
Ed Stone
Sidney Kimmel

John Hill

David Dunlap

Production design
Kelly McGeehee

Plummy Tucker

Roger Neill

Main cast
Dermot Mulroney
Amanda Peet
Sarah Paulson
Blair Brown
Alison Elliott
Lois Smith