Donna Deitch (Desert Hearts) follows the illness of her close friend, the actress Gwen Welles (Nashville), who died in 1993. At one point Deitch describes Welles as 'the monkey on my back, moth in my hand', and, indeed, her friend is a frustrating mix of vanity, stubbornness and vulnerability who initially sees her cancer as the fulfilment of long-held suicidal fantasies. Just as it becomes too late to escape the inevitable, she recognises her will to live. Admirably, Deitch does not over-sentimentalise, nor exclude ambivalence in what is a sometimes funny, often harrowing document.
Donna Deitch, Terri Jentz
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