Wit (2001)

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Product Description

Deservedly hailed as one of the best films of 2001, Wit makes it clear why top-ranking talents seek refuge in the quality programming of HBO. Unhindered by box-office pressures, director Mike Nichols and Emma Thompson turn the most unglamorous topic--the physical and psychological ravages of cancer--into an exquisite contemplation of life, learning, and tenacious, richly expressed humanity. In adapting Margaret Edson's compassionate, Pulitzer Prize-winning play, Nichols and Thompson open up the one-room setting with a superb supporting cast. But their focus remains on the hospital experience of Vivian (Thompson), a fiercely demanding professor of English literature whose academic specialty--the metaphysical poetry of John Donne--is the armor she wears against the cruel indignities of her cancer treatment. While losing all that she held dear, she reassesses her life as an aloof intellectual, and Wit illuminates her bracingly eloquent and deeply moving struggle for dignity, meaning, and peace at life's ultimate crossroads. --Jeff Shannon

Customer Reviews:

  • don't forget what this movie is really about...
    An excellent introduction to the work of the great poet John Donne. Why don't they teach this guy in secondary schools? He rivals Shakespeare's brilliance and genius, and in some ways surpasses it.

    Anyways, this movie should basically have the subtitle: who is John Donne, and why should you read him? Emma Thompson, in the role of a dying Donne professor is, of course, superb (even without the hair.)

    Wit = 4 stars, John Donne = 5 stars...more info

  • Wit is one of the best movies you can watch on the meaning of life.
    Why Emma Thompson did not win an oscar for this performance is beyond comprehension. This movie is basically a one-actor performance with some accents well performed by others. The range of emotions Emma's character goes through and the authenticity to which she express content, harshness, wit (of course), fear, pain sadness is phenomenal. Dont watch this for a feel good experience, rather a moment to delve into yourself, if you dare.
    All this is coupled with the haunting Avro Part's Spiegel im Spiegel music and the beautiful poetry of John Donne....more info
  • restrained brilliance
    This movie rises above any review that can be written. Emma Thompson is fantastic as an embittered literature professor in hospital facing Cancer. She paints a portrait of a lonely woman who fights off any close emotional contact, and ultimately finds herself completely alone. Through the movie she reflects on her life; the scene in which a children's book is read aloud will stay with you well after the movie ends. As will the word "soporific".
    Please buy this film. You will be touched....more info
  • Wit
    Awesome in the truest sense of the word. Emma Thompson is brilliant in this role!!!

    Anyone who has been touched by cancer or has family or friends touched by cancer MUST see this movie. It is a heartbreakingly honest film. Not an easy film to watch because of the raw emotion but it is a must-se. Even though the outcome is NOT a Hollywood "happily ever after" it is a wonderfully worthwhile film.

    I cried I laughted I was outraged and I was deeply touched. See this movie!!...more info
  • Excellent study in human grief and loss
    This video should be viewed by all prospective health care workers in order to assist them in understanding the effects of grief and loss on the human psyche....more info
  • Brilliance on all sides
    It seems to me that certain matters can be understood, that is to say, experienced at arms length back here where it's safe, only with art. If your loved one dies of a terrible progressive illness, you know the experience intimately. Yet understanding may take awhile, if it ever comes. If you yourself are desperately ill, you live in a cocoon of pain, embarrassment, fear and anger. You experience this only to the degree your mental capacity remains unimpaired. Understanding your experience may be a low priority. Yet, this film, like the ennui of Waiting for Godot, or the visual assault of Jackson Pollack, the cynicism of Lolita, or the anguish of Mahler's last adagio, sends us flying - transported to a place where we have, finally, an understanding, a closure. This film is a quiet little diamond - you can look at it from any angle and find not suffering, not degradation, but transcendent light. The greatest art shows us how rich life can be....more info
  • Very touchable
    This is one of those movies that teach you about how valuable is our life. No matter what's going on we should appreciate to be alive....more info
  • Wit
    This is a marvelous video. Anyone who has had a cancer victim in their family should watch it....more info
    I have to confess that I went to tears watching thIS movie, and usually I don't get emotional easily. It's so touching, a PhD professor of middle age find out that she is sick. Ovarian cancer. It was a shock for her, the doctor is talking to her and she can barely react. All through the movie, she looks at the camera from time to time and tell us all what she is thinking and suffering. There is a "brilliant" young doctor (yes, one of those who always wants to be the first and the best no matter what, with a big ego, the big shot of the class) who was her student in one of her literature classes. It made me very angry, his attitude, because he was treating her in a very cold and selfish way, only thinking in the results of the research. I want to say that most of the doctors and scientists are not that way. But once in a while you can find one of these.... weird specimen. The nurse was nice and treated her in a better way. This kind of movie makes us think about the fact that we are all just humans, not matter the title or knowledge you can have. And we are here to help each other, no taking advantadge of each other. I strongly recommend this movie...just be sure to have a box of facial tissues near you.

    ...more info
  • 3 stars out of 4
    The Bottom Line:

    Smart, insightful, and elegaic, Wit is a moving film about a lonely and intelligent woman preparing herself for death; although the direction sometimes gets a bit too gimmicky (as when Emma Thompson is inserted into her childhood memories) and the pace is too slow for the film to be described as "entertaining," Wit is a very good film that deserves to be seen....more info
  • One of the Most Powerful Films
    I have just read through some of the Customer Reviews for Wit here on Amazon and felt an urge to try my own for the first time. Just going through the reviews alone brought tears to my eyes, as they brought back hauntingly beautiful and powerful images of the movie to my memory. And it's been over six months since I watched the actual movie! I absolutely adore this film and admire its director and all the talented actors, without whom this extraordinary masterpiece could not have existed. Although I don't personally know of anyone (no one too close anyways) who had to go through a terrible scourge that is cancer, and English is not my first language, this film touched my heart to its deepest core and spawned an interest in John Donne and other English literary works. It made me go out and buy an Arvo P?rt CD as well! Thank goodness I could be one of the few people who were fortunate enough to discover this on CatchOn(HBO-affiliate of Korea). Now all I need is a Wit Soundtrack if only they would release one!...more info
  • one of the best of all time
    Wit, one of the best movies I have ever seen.
    Emma's performance profoundly effected me.
    I watch the movie and though I am sad .I have such a feeling of life and that we should live every moment.....
    the movie pulls you in and stays with you forever.
    every aspect of this movie is to be savored.
    allow yourself to feel it...Yes it's intense, but also humerous
    and touching in a real way.You might ponder the question why does fate treat some harsh and pass over others?
    I would Love to see this movie shown in High School.
    I highly recomened this powerful movie.....more info
  • Horrible hospital movie
    Sort of the Spanish Inquisition set in a modern hospital:
    what crimes has this English teacher to answer for?
    It is really too much realism for me:
    so depressing that some old people might go home and take a bottle of pills rather than a cancer treatment?
    Another false category of film as "drama" when it should be "horror"?
    A system of medicine shouldn't torture the patient it is supposed to be treating....more info
  • Beautiful
    This movie is hauntingly beautiful - all the reviews here have done it justice, so I won't attempt to add on anymore. However, I was wondering if anyone knows the title of the reoccuring theme song, which plays as Emma Thompson's professor is reading her the children's book. I would love any information anyone has!
    ...more info
  • incredible film
    This was an amazing movie. I think EVERY person employed in the healthcare industry should see this movie...Doctors particularly!!! Emma Thompson was phenomenal! The day I forget that these are people we are treating, not illnesses, is the day I no longer want to be a nurse!...more info
  • Stunningly Powerful!
    If one can watch "WIT" without feeling compassion,empathy,sensitivity, or walk away without feeling a sensation of change in their world-- then that particular individual is 'Dead.'

    In "Wit," Emma Thomson is at the absolute height of her art--Playing the scholary, intellectual professor to perfection, she recites Donne like a second language and expects others to also.

    When Thomson is diagnosed with ovarian cancer, not even her poetry can save her or her intellect or the hard shell she wears like a sort of armor--

    She begins to shed every layer and bare her soul like the child she once was. Instead of desiring Donne, she desires child-hood books--such a"Runaway Bunny."

    But No scene will move one more than when (Vivian's) mean, old professor comes to visit her in the hospital-- She hears Vivian crying and takes off her shoes and crawls into bed with her, holding her. "Shall I recite some Donne for you, Vivian?" Vivian shakes her head and the professor reads to her from a book she had bought for her grand-child "Runaway Bunny."

    Sometimes the people we least expect can be our brightest angels!

    The viewer will feel their souls rise up and meet redemption in mid-air--they will experience the core of the earth tremble beneath their feet-- if they do not--

    they do not live.

    ***NOTE*** One must wait an entire carreer for a role like this one, and Emma Thomson is pure and utter perfection.

    ...more info
  • Words cannot describe...
    ... but I'll try. I saw the film in-between my mother's two bouts with breast/bone cancer. At the time, I was completely in awe of Emma Thompson's incredibly personal portrayal of this woman; now, I'm still in awe of her, but also of how accurately and humanely this difficult yet wonderful story treats the main character's struggle at the end of her life's journey. This year in particular has involved quite a lot of death in my family, that of my in-laws, and several of my co-workers. I find myself constantly coming back to the scene with Vivian and her professor discussing the punctuation of "death, thou shalt die." Just a comma separates us from life and life eternal, the professor tells her - not an exclamation point, not a dramatic pause... just a comma. Indeed, this movie will stay with you, and may even help you with your own struggles in coping with death....more info
  • Amazingly moving movie
    I applaud Emma Thompson for her breathtaking role in this moving portrait of a terminal cancer patient. Amazing. I cried at the scene where her old mentor read the children's story to her. Wit is what movies are supposed to be. ...more info
  • Gut wrenching
    This movie was gut wrenching. As a nurse it opened my eyes to how a patient perceives us. I had some of my nursing students watch it. Yes I made them cry, but it helped them grow....more info
  • Brevity is the Soul of Wit....
    An unbelievably touching story. Emma Thompson is brilliant.
    Watch it....more info
  • My daughter is a cancer survivor
    I could not have watched this movie even a year ago. My 26 year old daughter was diagnosed with cancer three years ago. What a heartbreaking, gut-wrenching thing to have to watch your child suffer the ravages of chemo, cancer, doctors who have (usually by necessity)developed a calloused heart, and then to see the sweet, shaved head you haven't seen so bald since she was a baby..."Wit" touched me so deeply and personally. It reminds us all just how fragile we are...and how much we need to be loved and to love. ...more info
  • Just as Good The Second Time
    I experienced "Wit" when it first came out, and was deeply moved by the grace and dignity of the story. Cancer is a cruel killer, and this story brings out all the nobility of the character of Vivian Bearing.

    After three years I'd forgotten all about it. Only dim memories of the shape of the story remained, although the opening scene reminded me I had seen it before. This time was just as moving and filled with wonder at the production -- the acting, the editing, the script. Marvelous, marvelous.

    I hope it doesn't take 3 years to view it again.
    ...more info
  • Powerful, Brilliant, Heartfelt
    There are so many fine reviews here that another detailed commentary isn't needed. The film inspired some wonderful comments. I just want to add my five star vote.

    The idea is brilliant, the script, written by Thompson and Mike Nichols is brilliant, the acting and directing are all brilliant.

    I can't imagine another actress doing what Thompson does here!! The supporting cast is excellent. Eileen Atkins, as Thompson's teacher, will bring tears to the hardest heart in what has to be one of the most moving scenes in all of film-dom. I wished the movie had ended there, but it didn't and we had to see the final installment of the dehumanizing treatment by the clueless hospital staff. Unfortunately this is a reality in our world. Hopefully movies like this may make their way into medical training to help things along.

    This isn't a movie for the faint hearted or for those who want mindless diversion. But if you do choose to see it, you might be a better person.
    ...more info
    I won't comment on the excellence of this film as many commentators have done this in their reviews to date. I simply would like to add that I found the music to be completely appropriate, particularily Gorecki's Symphony No. 3 (Symphony of Sorrowful Songs,Nonesuch Records with Soprano Dawn Upshaw).

    The second movement was inspired by a prayer scratched on the wall of a Nazi Gestapo prison cell by a young Polish women whose life was unexpectedly and tragically ended by the brutalism of WWII. Replace prison with hospital and WWII with cancer and you have the tragedy of Dr Bearing (Emma Thompson). This particular recording had wide appeal and immediately became a best seller when it first became available.

    The prayer follows: Mother, no, do not cry,/ Queen of Heaven moste chaste/ Help me always./ Hail Mary....more info

  • Witty
    I purchased this as a gift to my husband who first heard of the movie from one of his Master's classes. He fell in love with the movie as I have too. It is a movie that displays a woman's life during a crisis who is subjected to the humility of the common world. It is a deep movie with critical thinking. It is not a movie to get a quick two hour thrill. Excellent movie overall....more info
  • good movie
    I ordered this movie for my sister after viewing it. What a sensitive movie. One can feel what it must be like to endure severe chemo therapy, reevaluate your life and all the while getting prepared for dying....more info
  • Not Funny
    Maybe I have not been fair as I did not watch all this movie, finding it depressing. Speaking for myself, don't like movies about sickness though admit there are many inspiring stories where people have triumphed over illness. Just not my bag....more info
  • painful but completely true to life
    Not an easy movie to watch. Emma Thompson is incredible as a late stage cancer patient dealing with research-focused medical providers. On the surface this is not a very hopeful movie, the character is so wry and painfully accepting of a very tough situation. Definitely does not offer happy platitudes, but at the same time one's admiration for the character grows as things progress. This must be the truest-to-real-life portrayal of the cancer experience ever put on film, and is essential viewing for patients and their loved ones, if for no other reason than to stimulate discussion about the realities of living with an ultimately fatal disease....more info
  • HBO's movie version of the play, Wit
    Excellent! A must see for anyone who works in healthcare - especially oncology, hospice and spiritual/pastoral care.
    Emma Thompson stars in this HBO movie version of the play, Wit. Her performance (along with the supporting cast) is educational and heart wrenching. It is a very human portrayal of the mind and body's struggle to be at peace with the spirit within, and the Spirit without....more info
  • A painful yet must-watch for the message it delivers
    I had put off watching "Wit" as I wasn't sure how I could get through a movie devoted entirely to one person suffering through cancer until her ultimate demise. Well, I finally watched it and I must say - it's hard to sit through this emotionally-searing movie, yet it does get many points across.

    The multi-talented Emma Thompson [who also co-wrote the screenplay] plays English Literature Professor Vivian who is diagnosed with stage 4 Ovarian cancer and is persuaded by her doctor [Christopher Lloyd] to undertake an experimental therapy with maximum dosage drugs. The viewer is then taken along on Vivian's journey through the world of cancer treatment - when we next see her [after her diagnosis], Vivian is bald and so we understand she has already undergone chemotherapy - she then takes us via flashbacks to her initial treatment, tests and so on before proceeding to the present.

    The dialogue, especially when Vivian is talking to us is filled with wit [just as the title implies] as she helps us understand her pain, frustrations and fear - but it is also a searing indictment of the clinical and callous manner in which many members of the medical establishment treat patients - the lab technician who leaves Vivian waiting in an uncomfortable chair as he goes out on his break, the former student turned doctor who leaves Vivian strapped on a gynaecological examination table as he looks around for a female assistant, the indifferent and impersonal doctor etc - these people are so devoid of human warmth and treat their patient as though they were just a specimen and not a person. My own experiences with some members of the medical establishment bears this out, though I have come across some pleasant nurses and the nurse who forms a bond with Vivian here, Susie [Audra McDonald] embodies those that truly do nurse the body and soul of their patients.

    "Wit" is an absolute tearjerker and many parts had me cringing, yet it is compelling, insightful and poignant. There are two memorable scenes in this movie that have stayed with me - one in which Nurse Susie brings Vivian popsicles and sits down to share it with her whilst speaking about an important subject, and the most poignant is when Vivian's former professor comes to visit and climbs into bed [Vivian is on her deathbed] with Vivian and just holds her whilst reading "The Runaway Bunny" by Margaret Wise Brown. Be sure to keep the tissues on hand as you watch this!

    ...more info
  • Very touching movie
    I had viewed this movie on tv a while ago. I am a Hospice nurse and found this movie so down to earth and informative about what a person's thoughts might be in the face of a debilitating condition.
    Most of the Nurses that I work with have gained new insight. Lest I lead you astray this is not a documentary for medical personnel. It is a wonderful protrayal of one woman's battle....more info
  • Wit by Emma Thompson
    Emma Thompson portrayed the challenges of getting treated for Cancer in a very thought provoking manner in Wit. I believe all medical students need to view this film. As someone who has completed Chemotherapy and radiation, it was satisfying to hear the inner conversation as the character journeyed through the treatment and life. ...more info
  • Sad to say, it's most memorable for its lack of emotional intensity
    The most moving scene for me was close to the end of the movie when the extraordinary actress (Eileen Atkins) climbed up onto the hospital bed of the dying Dr. Vivian Bearing to read a children's book to her. But much as I love the passionate and vital poetry of John Donne, I found the endless quoting of his work all through this passionless movie intrusive and didactic. Too many points were too self-consciously made, although the routine inhumanity of hospitals was well evoked and many of the minor actors were terrific. Particularly impressive (along with Eileen Atkins) was the doctor in the opening scene who gives the stiffly academic Dr. Bearing the bad news. This actor was Christopher Lloyd, I think. An actress with the luminosity of Liv Ullman would have been amazing as Dr. Bearing, and so,in fact, would Eileen Atkins at a younger age, but Emma Thompson gives a surprisingly shallow one-note performance. Her body language is excellent (getting on and off stretchers, throwing up) but the more essential aspects of her performance are memorable above all for their lack of emotional intensity.

    ...more info
  • Beautiful, powerful, and hard to watch
    This is a movie everyone needs to see, but you may only be able to watch it once. Wit is a powerful story of death and life...one that after I saw it, I had to own (way back when I bought the VHS) but couldn't watch it. Now that I no longer own a VCR, I needed to replace my copy. I think I am finally ready to see this piece again. Emma Thompson is wonderful!...more info
  • Wit DVD
    My son is into films and rates this as one of his favorites. He read the book in school and the movie is very close. Very well portrayed....more info
  • At the most you feel sorry for her
    I was rather turned off by this movie. Not because of the woman's illness, but just the fact that this is one of those films where the once mighty witful person now is subject to those she shot down with her wit at one time. While the use of her character as the main person, and also the second, or third person was rather good, but not enough to get more than one star. The last time I was this bored watching somthing was back in 5th grade when I had to watch a one man show performance on the life of Abraham Lincoln on Public Television. This was a homework assignment, so there was no way of getting out of this, but unlike the Lincoln show this I choose to get out, and declare it terrible. The most you can feel is sorry for her. ...more info
  • Heart wrenching and beautiful
    As a widower, whos partner Carole, lost her battle with Germ Cell Ovarian Cancer, at 34, in 2000, this film is full of tears, memories and fears - did Carole suffer this much?

    I would highly recommend this film to anyone, but caution those personally involved that a period of time may be needed after your loss, before watching.

    Buy it now though, as it is no longer available at all in Europe, it was never put on DVD over here. The VHS is now only available from a few Marketplace sellers in USA, so buy it today.
    Most UK VCR players now take the US format, though not the DVD.

    I am buying copies, before the VHS goes completely, to pass to fiends and family.

    I agree with others, it should be required viewing to anyone who works in cancer care.

    Thank you for a beautiful film...more info
  • Wit
    Smart and deeply affecting, Nichols's extraordinary adaptation of the Pulitzer Prize-winning play by Margaret Edson wrestles with questions of mortality and humanity. A specialist in the metaphysical poetry of John Donne, Vivian is a woman of sharp, superior intelligence. Winningly played by Thompson, her droll monologues on the experience of being reduced to crude flesh and blood are spiked with acid wit and eloquent, un-self-pitying honesty. Brilliant and devastating, "Wit" is a poignant drama masterfully helmed by Emmy winner Nichols....more info
  • Nothing Tops it
    I've never been so moved by a movie in my short 19 years. Watching Wit gave me a new look on life. I highly recommend this move to anyone and everyone. Have a box of tissue ready!...more info
  • Just blew me away
    Emma Thompson is just unbelievable in this role. There isn't much to look at in this film, just basically a hospital bed and some flashbacks. It's the dialog that was just incredible. How she describes her illness, what she is feeling, her childhood is so incredible. I was glued to the movie, I didn't want to miss a word. I can't say enough about this film, I just wish there were more that relied on good dialog instead of vulgarity, explosions and car chases. This movie will be a classic. What a beautiful film....more info
  • Heartbreaking -- just a wonderful film
    I'd read the play Wit several times before I bought the DVD. I shouldn't have waited so long. Emma Thompson makes the character come alive and hits all the wonderful ironic notes -- her patient history interview with the young doctor who was once her student is worth the price all by itself. Also, her wry observation that she expects to be asked the standard hospital question: "How are you feeling?" after she's dead is actually quite funny.

    That said, this is a hard film to watch, particularly if you've ever had a loved one who went through anything similar. It is heart-breaking, but well worth the tears....more info
  • hard to watch but worth it
    Emma Thompson outdoes herself playing a woman dying of ovarian cancer and the treatments for it. Sometimes very hard to watch due to her portrayal of suffering. The only weapon she has left in the end is her humor, her wit, her sarcasm and her love of literature and of teaching. Nichols does a superb job of directing....more info
  • DEATH be not proud, though some have called thee
    Mighty and dreadfull, for, thou art not so,

    Doctor Vivian Bearing, a tough, intellectual professor specializing in 17th century literature, takes on the challenge to undergo eight months of experimental chemotherapy and a combination of drugs to battle advanced metastatic ovarian cancer, in which she is in Stage 4, a cancer for which there is no Stage 5. She will also be studied by medical students, her illness being a significant contribution to knowledge. To be something studied, as opposed to a human being, yes, there's the rub, to quote the Bard. But she is a tough woman, never one to shirk a challenge.

    For, those, whom thou think'st, thou dost overthrow,
    Die not, poore death, nor yet canst thou kill me.

    Most of the story has Bearing's soliloquys, spoken to the viewer from her hospital bed, bald-headed and wearing a hospital gown, describing what she's thinking and feeling, and she does so with wit. One learns of her fascination with words, her past history as a student and academic, how she has preferred research to humanity, and her tough style of teaching, which she got from her mentor, Professor E.M. Rumford. There's a fascinating discussion between Bearing and Rumford, where the original punctuation at the end of Donne's "Death Be Not Proud" included a comma in the line, "death, thou shalt die." In other words, a comma separates life from life everlasting. Yet when Rumford tells her to go hang out with her students instead of going to the library Bearing goes to the library. Later, when a young doctor, Jason, tells her how he's fascinated by cancer due to its smartness, calling it "immortality in culture," it's ironic that she wishes he would be more interested in humanity rather than research.

    From rest and sleepe, which but thy pictures bee,
    Much pleasure, then from thee, much more must flow,

    As for flashbacks, there are times when we cut to a scene when she's a five year old reading a Beatrix Potter book, that she alternates between her five-year old self and as she is now, bald and in the hospital gown, symbolizing how fragile she seems despite bearing up.

    And soonest our best men with thee doe goe,
    Rest of their bones, and soules deliverie.

    She presents her illness in a paradox in the manner of Donne himself, when she says that with her immune system down, everything is a hazard, especially the health care professionals. She isn't in the isolation ward because she has a grapefruit-sized tumor, but because her treatment imperils her health. But she revels in the paradox, seeing it as an intellectual game. But when the cancer spreads elsewhere, she begins to get frightened, realizing her intellectual abilities isn't going to help her, but that she seeks simplicity and kindness, and that makes her regret she had been sympathetic to some of her own students. Fortunately, she finds that in Susie, the nurse, with whom she has a rapport with.

    Thou art slave to Fate, Chance, kings, and desperate men,
    And dost with poyson, warre, and sicknesse dwell,

    Juxtaposing this movie with my mother's recent battle with cancer did ring some emotional chords due to similarities. My mother wasn't as open as Dr. Bearing in her feelings when undergoing CT Scans, ultrasounds, colonoscopies, or the IPT chemotherapy. But she too looked for kindness and simplicity, and when a certain hospital worker wheeled her chair to a spot of sunshine on a cold day after a CT scan, my mother realized that maybe she was wrong in being too tough, and that she had hurt some people in her past.

    And poppie, or charmes can make us sleepe as well,
    And better then thy stroake; why swell'st thou then;

    This is by far Emma Thompson's best role ever, but Audra McDonald as Susie lends strong support as the very human and compassionate nurse, who sees Bearing as a human being, not a subject for study. Those who have just lost a dear one to cancer may find this painful going, others will find this a study of reflection one experiences when near the portals of mortality.

    One short sleepe past, wee wake eternally,
    And death shall be no more; death, thou shalt die....more info

  • Cold and stagy
    I feel like a bit of a Philistine giving a middling review to a film which is so deeply moving to so many other reviewers, but it just didn't do it for me. Emma Thompson gives a wonderful performance as the English professor dying of ovarian cancer, but the film as a whole seemed rather cold. The only scene that really moved me was the one in which her old teacher and mentor came to visit her, sitting in bed with her and reading a children's book. ...more info
  • so sad and so important
    In the character of Professor Vivian Bearing, Emma Thompson takes us from the diagnosis of advanced ovarian cancer, to death. Along the way, she shows us her relations with various hospital staff, including her cold doctor and her research-focused former student

    Looking back on her life, she sees in her rigid standards the same lack of humanity she now suffers under. While nurse Suzy has less formal education than the doctor or Professor Bearing, she had a lesson to teach them all in effect of kindness, caring and humanity on hope and comfort.

    Important for medical personnel to see how their actions are viewed from the patient perspective. Important for all others as a reminder that success and recognition will not save one in the end. Only compassion and caring relationships with other humans can really mitigate suffering.

    I didn't give it five stars because it was a bit long and drawn-out in the middle and I didn't find the young doctor's performance entirely convincing. But Thompson's performance was excellent, especially at the end. ...more info
  • wit
    As a nurse in the health care profession, the messege i recieved from this movie was shocking and life changing. when ever i have a bad month or rocky patch at work i watch this movie. the perspective provided by the excellet movie is touching. it truly gave me a deeper compassion for the chronically ill patient and how hard it must be for them to deal with their situation. when you watch this movie have a box a tissues and i will not sugar coat it, the things you will see will break your heart, as it did mine. so be prepared, for a movie that you will never see anything else like it. ...more info
  • Worth a rental, but that's about it
    I see so many glowing reviews of this movie. It makes me wonder if I watched the same film. Now admittedly, I did go in to watching this movie with very high hopes. My friends had raved about it and I - being a huge cinephile with a preference for dark subject material - was really looking forward to it.

    And I will say this: that if you can manage to get through the first 45 minutes, you'll find this to be an endearing little film. But you have to get through that first 45 minutes - a task that I found, well, soporific.

    The film is deluged with self-importance. It seems to scream "Look at me! I'm an important film!" I felt like the movie was trying to force-feed me its supposed profundity. "Look there, it's Emma Thompson and she's quoting John Donne and she's in a hospital gown! Oh look, now she's noting the dry irony of some procedure [you may fill in the blank]! Wow!"

    It's sad to say, I only really started liking the movie when the good professor starting "barfing her brains out". From that point on it begins to be watchable, but not before. I think I know why.

    We're given a character who isolates herself from everyone. Even the audience. I, as a viewer, couldn't care less about this character. And unfortunately, we aren't given a reason to. So she's smart and clever and has a way with words. And she's also a mean-spirited b*tch. At what point does the compassion come in? I really wish the film had established something in the beginning that demonstrated some kind of vulnerability. Despite a small scene involving her as a graduate student, learning the hard lessons of how to really be an academic, we never really get underneath this character's fingernails. She may be witty, but she is not profound. The shallowness seeps through the screen and seriously injures the film.

    But having said that, it does transform into a lovely little film. Especially poignant is the scene at the end, where her old professor recites to her, not John Donne but "The Runaway Bunny", a children's book.

    Perhaps, then, the film plays more on the theme of salvation and change than anything. In some way this movie reminded me of Martin Scorcese's masterpiece, "Raging Bull", in which an unlikeable and shallow character slowly sees his life unravel, until he is able to see himself clearly. The difference is that Jake La Motta's insecurities and vulnerabilities are bubbling just beneath the surface, whereas Dr. Bearing is just kind of a pretentious snob, and we don't know why. ...more info
  • One of the Best I've seen
    Evertime I watch it, Wit makes me laugh and weep at the same time. Emma Thompson is simply the best ...more info
  • death: upclose & personal
    Wonderful movie - shows death & dying from a personal, up-close perspective. See how oblivious the medical establishment can be! ...more info
  • Deeply moving.
    Emma Thompson's and Mike Nichols's HBO teleplay based on Margaret Edson's stage play was both fascinating and emotional.

    Thompson plays Vivian Bearing, an English professor who is diagnosed with terminal ovarian cancer. The film follows her from her diagnosis to her death; during this time she questions life and finds her answers while examining the sonnets of John Donne. The implication that life is simply an observation by the people who live is deeply provocative and moving.

    Direction by Nichols is superb, and cinematography by Seamus McGarvey is terribly poignant: the final scene in particular is breathtaking. The cast is first-class, led by an impeccable performances by Emma Thompson and four-time Tony-winner (wow!) Audra McDonald. HBO has once again delivered a winning piece of cinematic art to its audiences....more info

  • There are no words, but having said that
    There are no words that can express my feelings about this film, but having said that, this is one of the - maybe THE most moving films I have ever seen and definitely one of the most magnificent performances I have ever seen, Emma Thompson's. The spareness, the pace - both of which some other reviewers have commented on - seem to reflect, paradoxically, the experience of what is being faced - and as the character, Professor Bearing, comes to say: simplicity. Yet the story and the experience are anything but 'simplicity'. Profound, deeply thought provoking, comforting, rich, eloquent - and yet there are no words, as she also says at one point, even though words have meant so much to her. The comma in John Donne's poem - I think the lines that reflect on that are some of the most - affecting I've ever heard. One of the most moving scenes ever viewed in a film is the one where Professor Bearing's nurse played so wonderfully by Audra MacDonald rubs lotion on Professor Bearing's hands; so moving I wasn't sure I could bear it. This film is just extraordinary in every way and I wish I knew that Ms.Thompson, Mr. Nichols, Ms. McDonald, Ms. Edson, et al. could know how much it meant to my husband and me to watch it. John Donne, whose poetry was a subject in another of my favorite films - 84 Charing Cross Road - was done proud. I am grateful for the existence of this film....more info
  • Taunt Teaching
    Taunt teaching about the process and environment of death in a hospital. Should be required for all who interact at any level with persons who have cancer....more info


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