The late Arthur Hiller started the ball rolling in 1970 with his uber touching tearjerker "Love Story" in which he coupled Ali McGraw and Ryan O'neal together with a slogan ("Love means never having to say you're sorry") and then proceeded to kill her character off with a slow, grueling cancer death. It literally made a star of McGraw and earned her an Oscar nomination.


The next up was "Terms of Endearment" (1983) by James L Brooks in which he cast Debborah Winger with Shirley MacClaine, Jack Nicholson, John Lithgow and Jeff Daniels. He gave Winger's character cancer and interaction with some of the best actors in Hollywood. It knocked down five Oscars and millions of Kleenex as the new standard barer for the tearjerker genre. About ten years later, Bruce Rubin flipped the script and hooked up Michael Keaton and Nicole Kidman in "My Life" in which Keaton's character develops kidney cancer and squeezes the onion. It was well done, but in over its cinematic head when compared to the previous two films.


A couple of years ago, "Me and Earl and the Dying Girl" was released and garnered some critical acclaim, but little else when director Alfonso Gomez-Rejon infected Olivia Cooke's character with cancer. The fact is, it is an interesting topic but unless filmmakers get beyond the shaved head often associated with cancer and cancer treatment, their films are doing little more than traveling down the path of been there, done that. There have been quite a few including: "50/50", "The Fault in Our Stars", "My Sister's Keeper", "The Bucket List", "The Shootist", "Brian's Song", and others to name some.

Drew Waters first film in the director's seat, "New Life" falls into that category, even though technically it's fairly well done. Written by lead actress Erin Bethea, the story is about a couple - from the time they met as children - through adulthood and marriage. Bethea plays Ava Kennedy who immediately captures the heart of Ben (Jonathan Patrick Moore) when they were neighbors as children. He has a British accent which is what attracts her to him; he's different. Ironically as he gets older, the accent fades in and out.


They seem destined for eternal happiness when, not long after their first rift concerning the amount of time he spends at work, they have their first of several tragedies when she finally becomes pregnant. This is not a spoiler, anyone can see this coming a mile away as well as the other incidents.


Apparently Erin was not impressed with just one tragedy dumped on her character, she decided to open the warehouse and attach them to her character. Herein lies the biggest problem with the story, little time was taken to develop the characters of the tragedies; especially the cancer tragedy. Bethea doesn't let the audience get to know the tumor. We never become familiar with it, which is something that must happen to fully develop the character afflicted. When the tragedy isn't characterized, it becomes merely a random object. Random objects don't work with tearjerkers.


It is fun to see the familiar faces of Barry Corbin, Bill Cobbs and Terry O'Quinn in far to small roles but again, their characters aren't developed at all, this is a big disappointment with O'Quinn especially since he is the diagnosing doctor. But Cobb's late addition seems to be a weak effort to simply bolster the film credibility with a familiar face.


The film tries to send out a life affirming message, but that is lost as even that act is introduced by another tragedy.


"New Life" is an okay "almost" tearjerker that tries much too hard to be a tearjerker but fails to create complete sympathetic characters. Decent performances drown in the shallow narrative. [VOD]   -- GEOFF BURTON