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By Frederic and Mary Ann Brussat
A Woman's Tale
Directed by Paul Cox
Orion Home Video 05/92 DVD/VHS Feature Film
Years may wrinkle the skin but they need not diminish one's zest for life. Australian writer and director Paul Cox has made one of the best films ever about the indomitable will and positive frame of mind needed by the long-lived. A Woman's Tale is set in contemporary Australia. Sheila Florance gives a tour de force performance as Martha, an octogenarian who lives in a small apartment with her cat Sam and her parakeet Jesus. Although hobbled by a terminal case of cancer, she finds time to care for others. She insists that her nurse Anna use her apartment for the affair she is having with a married man. She looks after Billy, the senile old man who lives next door.
What keeps this woman going? Martha is a firm believer in the sanctity of life, the power of positive thinking, and the necessity of speaking one's mind. Although occasionally brought down by stabs of pain and loneliness, she always picks herself back up. She organizes excursions for herself and her friends. She regales Anna with stories from her life.
Paul Cox has made a brave, bold, and life-affirming film about what Cicero called "our play's last act." Martha helps us see what it takes to make those closing scenes ones filled with care, compassion, and fierce dignity. As Martha says to Anne, "Life is so beautiful. Keep love alive!"
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by Frederic and Mary Ann Brussat
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