Ryan and Amy Green lived every parent’s nightmare. Thank You for Playing chronicles that nightmare and turns their heart-wrenching story into one of hope. The Greens have three boys. Joel, their youngest, was diagnosed with terminal cancer at the age of one. His diagnosis gave him only a matter of months to live but at the age of four, Joel was still fighting. His conditions continue to grow worse and tumors began to expand and multiply. Ryan and Amy saw an opportunity to make sure every second of every day of Joel’s life counted.
Thank You for Playing is an unique story of turning heartbreak into poetry. Ryan works as an indie video game creator and came up with the idea of telling their story through a video game. He chronicles all of the ups and downs, hope and sorrow of Joel’s cancer diagnosis into a game called That Dragon, Cancer. Amy helps him with the story idea and creating an immersive narrative for the game.
Filmmakers David Osit and Malika Zouhali-Worrall follow the Green family as they create That Dragon, Cancer. From the conception of the video game to debuting it at an expo, Osit and Zouhali-Worrall cover a breadth of time and material in a scant 80-minute running time. They structure the film to mirror everything the Greens are going through and make every minute count.
There’s a moment in the film where the family is at a playground. In a talking head, Amy says she and Ryan just decided that they weren’t going to live every day waiting for Joel to die. This moment of brave clarity signals what Thank You for Playing is all about. Ryan and Amy are the epitome of making every day count. While they know their son won’t be with them forever, they capture every movement and moment they have with him.
Thank You for Playing will be an expectedly hard watch for parents especially, but it’s impossible not feel the Greens’ pain and be inspired by their resilience. They chose to turn a dire situation into art and not only created a game but a time capsule of their son. It brought them a semblance of hope on days when the news got worse.
Osit and Zouhali-Worrall have crafted an intimate portrait of a family and the power of a family’s bond. They rarely emphasize the Greens’ pain for the sake of a “movie moment” (although, some shots are a bit too close when someone sheds a tear), and don’t look to italicize the sadness they are experiencing. The thesis of the film is clear – live every day like it matters. There are glimmers of light within the darkness. At their darkest hour, the Greens have showed us all that.
Thank You for Playing is a portrait of a family who received the worst news imaginable. The documentary follows Ryan and Amy Green as they craft a video game that details their journey through their son Joel’s cancer diagnosis and treatment. Even though he is terminal, the film brings hope to a situation where there is none.