Cool Kids Don't Cry
is a depressing story tackled in such a playful and childlike manner it ends up being all the more heart-wrenching.
The Dutch film, based on a children's novel, centres on the tomboyish 8th grader Akki, who loves playing football, but is afflicted with leukemia. Though the film is a mixture of happy and sad moments, showing among other things how the girl endures the medical procedures necessary, as a whole it captures what is beautiful about that age and the essence of what friendships is about.
It is a film that does not overstate emotions; it is not filled with tears and does not overdo sentimentality. It is actually quite the opposite as one sees how the hospital becomes a playground, and how plotting to give Akki surprises turns into the little adventures for her friends. The teacher's attempts at making her feel comfortable in class are also very endearing as the whole class participates in a hat catwalk when Akki first comes in with her bald head covered.
Despite the disease, one can see how Akki's worries are typically adolescent. She wants to get better in order to participate in the football match and she fights with her mother, who wants to enroll her in school camp. Perhaps it is Akki's spirited personality that makes her deteriorating state saddening. Her strength in dealing with the disease and even her adolescent attitude in trying to prove that she is feeling better so she could lead a normal life – not to mention her realistic self blame – makes a viewer on the brink of tears for almost the whole duration of the film.
Another interesting aspect of the film is that it follows the slow understanding of children of disease and death. In one scene Akki's classmates wonder where she will head if she dies. The scene is culturally sensitive as it shows children of families of different beliefs. It includes children from Christian, atheist and Muslim backgrounds. One girl explains how her mother believes in reincarnation.
Secondary characters in the film played a major role and perhaps gave it its light touch despite the sensitive subject matter. The doctor at the hospital whom Akki calls Dr Moustache acts childish around the kids and rides around the hospital in a scooter, while the nurse gives the girl motherly care, providing her with beads to construct a long beady thread.
Perhaps the least interesting character is Joep, with whom Akki has romantic feelings. Despite the good character profile of the emotionally defensive, who eventually lets his guard down, the young actor does not manage to portray the character well. More interesting was her friend, who drew caricatures for her, and the little class clown Ibrahim.
Despite some of the predictable moments in the film and even the cheesy song at the end, its deeply emotional messages makes you overlook all that. The best thing about the film that it feels like a fun childish bubble of happiness surrounded by the gravity of cancer.
Cool Kids Don't Cry
Wednesday 3 October, 10:30am at Galaxy Cinema, 67 Abd El Aziz Al Saud St., El Manial
Friday 5 October, 1:00pm at Galaxy Cinema, 67 Abd El Aziz Al Saud St., El Manial
Monday 8 October, 10:30am at City Stars Cinema, Omar Ibn El-Khattab Street, Nasr City
View the COMPLETE PROGRAMME here