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A Film to Consider

Posted 2/5/2016

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  Many times, I have directed you to Susan Gubar's wonderful blog in The New York Times. An English professor who has advanced ovarian cancer, she writes eloquently about living with cancer. Her most recent essay is really a movie review about a film called A Woman like Me.

  This film, by Alex Sichel and Elizabeth Giamatti, explores the experiences of two young women facing death from cancer. Really two movies in one, braided seamlessly together, the first story is the true one of Ms. Sichel's experience, and the second is fictional about a woman who is somehow able to be more upbeat, enjoying life to the fullest while she can. 

  Generally I stay away from movies about people dying of cancer, but not this one. Several women who attend my weekly group for women with advanced cancer have seen it and loved it--felt that it portrayed the ambivalence and pulls and tugs and sorrows and joys of their lives accurately. Don't we all, when facing anything tough, wonder whether there is another, better way to behave? Or wish, at least, that we could try on another persona?

  Here is the beginning and then a link to read Ms. Gubar's column. The film is available on Netflix.

Living With Cancer: A Woman Like Me

We commonly assume that cancer afflicts the aging or aged, but approximately 16 percent of breast cancer deaths involve women under the age of 50. How can or should an alarming death sentence be confronted in midlife? The personal challenges posed by incurable disease unfold in an absorbing documentary about movie-making, “A Woman Like Me,” which opened in New York in October and became available on Netflix this January.

The co-directors of “A Woman Like Me,” Alex Sichel and Elizabeth Giamatti, consider the roles played by temperament, spirituality and art as two vigorous women attempt to reconcile themselves to a terminal prognosis. The film portrays Ms. Sichel confronting metastatic breast cancer by making two movies.

The first is a documentary of herself in the hospital with medical personnel and at home with her family. Ms. Sichel, who received the diagnosis just before her daughter started kindergarten, is shown dealing with her ambivalence about the traditional therapies she undertakes. Her parents, sisters and husband struggle on camera with their ambivalence about the holistic therapies she also undertakes.

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