• Two of the movie’s young leading actors

The British-Spanish coproduction Ways to Live Forever, which screens tonight at 7 PM at Facets Multimedia as part of the Chicago International Children’s Film Festival, is a work of noble intent. It’s a movie for young audiences on the subject of death that broaches the topic sensitively but unsentimentally. I suspect that, for some of the kids in the audience, it will be the first time they’ve been asked to consider death seriously. That’s a tall order for young viewers, but the movie makes the task easier by refusing to condescend to its audience. The approach implies that kids are capable of thinking about tough problems and should be encouraged to do so.

The main character is a 12-year-old leukemia patient named Sam. There is no question whether he will die at the end. Yet the boy regards his terminal condition as a challenge rather than a curse. He throws himself into his studies and friendships, and makes a point to explore all of his curiosities about life. Admirably, few of his wants are materialistic in nature or even all that rare. The point, we quickly realize, isn’t whether one lives a life that’s “better” than other people’s, but whether it’s meaningful to him.