Cancer-film narratives are dime-a-dozen, but so are hoary devices of magical realism. Thankfully, directors / producers Stephane Mounkassa and Stefan Sundin walk the thin line between both with If Everything Was Real.

Josef (Edvin Ryding) is a 14-year-old soccer fanatic taking chemotherapy for cancer. At his side for treatment is his mother, Jennifer (Lia Boysen), and a man whom we assume is perhaps Josef’s father or uncle.

Instead, Goran (Jimmy Lindstrom, like a bald Swedish cross of Alan Tudyk and Shea Whigham) is Josef’s guardian angel — visible only to Josef and endowed with the power to grant Josef three wishes.

Mounkassa and Sundin switch between the sterile serenity of Josef’s cancer ward and Goran’s color-popped delivery of Josef’s wishes — lucid dream-like visits to carnivals, cinemas and the like where his boyish hair, now gone, instead blows in the wind.

Helping stave off a potentially repetitive sappiness in this story is Linda (Wilma Liden), a new girl on Josef’s floor who begrudgingly becomes his friend … and on whose behalf Josef tries to strike a bargain with Goran.

In all, it’s a compelling, if not terribly surprising, wrinkle on a familiar story — a sort of docile Drop Dead Fred. Meanwhile, Mounkassa and Sundin do a fine job mining the empathy unique to children which adults, pure as their intentions may be, are simply no longer able to comprehend.

(35 minutes, Sweden; Drama; in Swedish with subtitles)

If Everything Was Real is a Narrative Short finalist at the 2017 Heartland Film Festival and will be part of a short-film program presented at:

  • 5:15 p.m., Friday, Oct. 20 at AMC Castleton Square 14
  • 10:15 a.m., Saturday, Oct. 21 at AMC Showplace Traders Point 12

Tickets are available at, by calling 1-866-HFF-1010 or at the box office at the time of the screening. 

Directors / producers Stephane Mounkassa and Stefan Sundin will be in attendance at the festival.