'Thank You for Playing' finds levity in the tragedy of cancer

'Thank You for Playing' finds levity in the tragedy of cancer
Ryan Green plays with the video game he developed called “That Dragon, Cancer.” (FilmBuff)

Early in David Osit and Malika Zouhali-Worrall's documentary "Thank You for Playing," indie video game developer Ryan Green describes a stain on his ceiling that he refuses to clean, because it reminds him of his son Joel's feeding tube. His wife, Amy, laughs, saying that he's using sentimentality as an excuse for being a slob.

That's "Thank You for Playing" in a nutshell. This is a film about cancer that's also about how we remember the dead, and how even during tragedy there's a place for levity.

Ryan and Amy — with the help of programmer Josh Larson — turned their experiences with Joel's illness into the game "That Dragon, Cancer," which they first started working on to document how their son kept clinging to life, then later to memorialize him. Osit and Zouhali-Worrall capture multiple aspects of the process, from the big philosophical questions to the minutiae of design.

Make no mistake: This film is a tear-jerker, taking an intimate look at one family's heartbreak and how their art moves people. It's a narrowly focused story, about the Greens' religious faith and creative joy — and not so much about the complicated world of indie gaming.

But like "That Dragon, Cancer," "Thank You for Playing" accomplishes the Greens' goal: showing what it's like to wake up every day with a sick child, and to savor every second of it.


'Thank You for Playing'

No rating

Running time: 1 hour, 20 minutes

Playing: Laemmle NoHo 7, North Hollywood.