Saturday, November 5, 2011

A Woman's Tale

Sorry I didn't get to post this last night. I was honestly so tired that I was falling asleep while I was trying to read Ebert's essay. I figured I could either do it late, or post a garbled mess instead. I hate being so tired all the time, but man, things are stressful - in life and work. Then I have the project on top of that, and it's been pretty hard. I don't want to reduce the number of movies per week because I'm so close to being done!

Anyway, yesterday I watched A Woman's Tale, directed by Paul Cox in 1991. It's a very good movie, and a very sad movie. It's one of the few movies that deals with death in such a direct and honest way. This is coming from someone who has, for better or for worse, watched people die in documentaries on physician-assisted suicide, and enjoyed SICK. This was not nearly as blunt as either of those things, but a far cry from what we normally see in Hollywood.

The film follows Martha, an eldery woman, during her last days as she battles cancer. Despite her age, she loves life and is always helping others. She sets up romantic escapes for her nurse Anna and Anna's married lover, deals with her son who wants to just put her into a nursing home, and befriends others, from a prostitute to her neighbor with dementia. I think that a lot of other, normal movies might have given her some over the top poetic death, but here, death isnt so sentimental.

I really appreciated that the film shows death as being complicated, I guess. Martha still lives her life and fights - she refuses to go to the home like her son would like so she can die somewhere convenient for him. She keeps active, keeps giving to others. But we also see another side of her, the frail, small side. It's not as black and white as death is in other  movies. She suffers in pain, her body is run down, but she still has things to live for. The role the actress plays is really tough, and I imagine it wasn't easy for her. The actress was actually sick and dying like her character, Ebert says in his essay, which just made the film more powerful for me. She was really sharing herself with us, not just the character.

Even though the movie is about death, I think that it overall is extremely life-affirming. I loved that Martha was so independent and was able to enjoy her last days. I love that she fought for herself and didn't let other people control her. For the actress, I felt that this was a pretty brave role to take, since it had to be a pretty personal film. It's not easy to share your frailty or vulnerability with people you know, let alone strangers watching a film. This is a really great movie, and I wish it was a little easier for people to see. I had a lot of trouble finding a copy, which is a shame, really. I thought it was a good film, different and beautiful - I'm glad that I was able to watch it.

Have any thoughts about A Woman's Tale? Share them in the comments!

Ebert's Great Movie Essay on A Woman's Tale
Buy it on Amazon

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