SM Film Festival: Cake
Did its Portrayal of Chronic Pain Rise or Fall Flat?Representations of chronic pain are few and far between in films – "Cake", starring Jennifer Aniston, was seen as a long overdue opportunity to change this. Around 8 million people in the UK suffer from chronic pain, but it remains an illness that is little understood or addressed.Did Cake live up to expectations and break the taboo of chronic pain in film?
A Brief Synopsis
The film follows Claire Bennett's (Anniston's character's) struggle with chronic pain and prescription medication addiction following a car crash that killed her young son 1 year earlier. Claire has hallucinations of a woman from her chronic pain support group who killed herself, Nina, and becomes close to the husband she left behind.
Is Cake an Accurate Depiction of Chronic Pain?
Cake has been praised by many for providing an insight into the daily struggles of those with chronic pain. Anniston was banned from wearing make-up in an effort to make her character appear more genuine and to reflect the limitations of chronic pain.
Also depicted is a frustration over lack of progress in managing the pain; we learn from Claire's physiotherapist that they have seen no improvement for the past 6 months. Claire also used to work as a lawyer, but the pain she suffers means she struggles to even sit upright in the car.
Whilst Cake is a poignant portrayal of pain and loss – it centres on the issue of addiction. The National Pain Report, an online chronic pain news site
, noted that a main concern was that the film sensationalises the illness and conforms to the stereotype that chronic pain sufferers are addicts.
Another review by Sami Jankins in Ravishly, an online community for women
(Feb, 2015), included a quote from a viewer explaining that those with chronic pain don't take drugs to "hallucinate or get high"
(as is shown by Claire in the film), but rather to "cut through the fog pain wraps around our heads, so we are able to function like a normal person."
Claire also appears to be very wealthy – the privilege of full time hired help is not something available to the majority of chronic pain sufferers. Usually, finances are one of the biggest concerns due to being unable to get on with everyday life or to work.
Cake has made a genuine effort to portray the realities of living with chronic pain, and we hope this will help to make more people aware of the difficulties an otherwise hidden illness can cause. But it's important to remember that, as critics have highlighted, this is not the typical experience of many chronic pain sufferers.
Overall Rating – 3/5 Stars
Simpson Millar's Chronic Pain SolicitorsAt Simpson Millar, we provide legal advice to those suffering with chronic pain following an injury. We know all too well the extent to which chronic pain sufferers have their everyday lives interfered with, and how compensation goes some way towards making up for this loss.