Based on writer Albert Espinosa's own experiences as a teenager in a hospital cancer ward, 4th Floor follows the relationships of a gang of wheelchair-bound teenage boys - "the baldies" - who live together in the cancer ward on the fourth floor of a hospital. The boys all have remarkably positive attitudes, and are determined to defy the misfortune that life has dealt them. There are new patients whose acquaintances are worth making, nurses at whom they can poke fun, a basketball team to run and nightly saunters down the hospital corridors. There's even love to be found a few floors up! Flipping between comedy and tragedy, this touching tale of friendship manages to remain upbeat despite its grave subject matter. Written by
Planta 4a is a truly remarkable film. A coming of age drama, dealing with first love, basketball, the usual childhood mischief, and above all, friendship. Basically a comedy, this will definitely bring laughter, and maybe a few tears along the way I can't recall seeing a coming of age drama with such a refreshing honesty suffused with sadness and humour since 'Stand By Me'. Oh, and by the way it just happens to be set in the cancer ward of a hospital.
One could be forgiven at this point for thinking that this sets the scene as thoroughly depressing. It is anything but! The young lads suffer from cancer, and while that is never forgotten, nor overlooked, it never dominates the film, choosing to remain almost in the background. Director Antonio Mercero has managed to take a difficult subject, and bring true unflinching humour into the story, whilst never making light of the gravity of the illness the boys suffer from.
Made all the more remarkable by the fact that it is based on a true story, that of Albert Espinosa, a long time sufferer, and survivor of cancer, it is little surprise to note that the film has already won numerous awards, and much critical acclaim. Lead actor Juan José Ballesta, himself a Goya award winner for his astonishing performance in 'El Bola' turns in a stunning performance, although the same is true of the rest of the young, and mostly hitherto unheard of, cast.
Originally a theatrical piece, 'Los Pelones', or 'The Baldies', this adapts very well to the big and indeed small screen. 'The Baldies' is the name affectionately given to the young patients, by the hospital staff, for obvious reasons, and drawing from his own experiences, Espinosa conveys beautifully, the emotions and trials of growing up with cancer, and indeed just plain growing up. The film treats the individuals as exactly that; a group of young lads, finding their way in the world, their places in the social pecking order, and dealing with all the normal things teenage boys deal with. Never once are they treated as 'victims', and rightly so. They are ordinary teenagers, from different backgrounds, dealing with different emotions and problems, whilst all sharing one common factor, which never once overtakes the coming of age theme the film so eloquently portrays.
It is directed with such simplicity and refreshing honesty, that Mercero has created a true masterpiece. Given the choice of subject matter, and the fact that this is, in essence, a comedy, a film like this is a very delicate balancing act. It would be all too easy for the balance of the film to sway at any point, and yet it never does. It walks a fine line between drama and comedy, never once faltering, and it is to be respected for that.
Planta 4a contains several scenes which maybe unsuitable for younger viewers, however they are all in keeping with the overall tone of the film. There is nothing gratuitous or unnecessary; the strong language is appropriate given the age of the boys teenage boys swear; it's just another part of the rich tapestry of their lives.
This film is an absolute joy to watch it will make you cry with laughter, and in places, will probably just make you cry. There is sadness, naturally. It would be unrealistic if there was none, and yet again, it never overwhelms the film.
If you get the opportunity to see this, either at the cinema, or on DVD (which takes some finding, but it does exist), please, please do yourself a favour, and see it. Savour it films like this are rare, but like any precious gem, finding them gives remarkable rewards. There are few films with cancer infused into the storyline, and even fewer that leave you with a warm and fuzzy feel-good factor. This film is one of those rare exceptions, which dares to take on a tough subject, and use it almost as a secondary theme.
I dislike 'scoring' peoples work, but in this rare instance I am happy to make an exception this garners a very well earned 10 out of 10!
Reviewed by Ollie 6th December 2004.
26 of 28 people found this review helpful.
Was this review helpful to you?