Professor Vivian Bearing, 48, a specialist in Renaissance English literature and especially the poet John Donne, has been diagnosed with inoperable ovarian cancer. While she undergoes 8 months of brutal experimental chemotherapy, she looks back on her life of words and teaching, realizing what language did and could not do for her, and where her generally excellent teaching methods may have failed her students, or perhaps herself. Director Mike Nichols and star Emma Thompson collaborated on a teleplay based on the stage play by Margaret Edson. Restrained and meditative themes from Shostakovich and Gorecki adorn the soundtrack. This quiet and slow-paced yet intense story is almost entirely Thompson's, but Atkins has two effective scenes as her mentor, Professor Ashford.
This report prepared by David Loftus