Cancer plays Cupid in Hannah Marks and Joey Power’s terrific debut romantic comedy.
Cancer is contagious in Hannah Marks and Joey Power’s intelligent romance “Shotgun.” Not literally, of course. Only 23-year-old Elliot (Jeremy Allen White) is at risk of dying from the tumor on his pelvic bone. But his new girlfriend Mia (Maika Monroe), who luckily or unluckily had her first date with Elliot days after his diagnosis, embraces his illness with the heedless devotion of young love.
A week ago, she was a bored spreadsheet drone at a toothpaste marketing firm and he was a party-hardy sandwich clerk wondering why his groin hurt during a one-night stand. They were typical Brooklyn millennials idly pawing through Tinder. Cancer ennobles them. Better, it confirms their quiet suspicion that their lives until now have just been a waste of time. As evidence, her roommates (Sasha Lane and Olivia Luccardi) and his best friend Nico (DeRon Horton) exist mainly to get wasted and watch trash TV. Though they’d never say it out loud — and the script doesn’t make them — Elliot’s potential death has elevated them to the best versions of themselves.
That’s the sick joke underlying Marks and Power’s compelling debut that whisks audiences on the same emotional, impulsive arc as the young couple. Elliot is an aimless barfly who picks up girls by bragging about his 99-cent therapy app which he’s never bothered to code. Mia, low-toned and guarded, already feels like a misfit in a town where everyone seems to be having more fun. Chemotherapy sobers him and adds sparkle to her. It yanks them into the same emotional state, a fiefdom of two, where they shut out everyone else to Google, “What happens when u take mdma and have cancer.”