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Mrs. Tucker, Her Daughter Emily and Dr. Duff features Raymond Duff, M.D. as the storyteller. Dr. Duff was a pioneer in neonatology and produced many scholarly works in that field. One of his areas of research was grief and bereavement. However, his interests and this story go well beyond "grief resolution" to an exploration of the boundaries of the clinician-patient relationship.
The pseudonymous Tucker family and Dr. Duff share together a number of deaths and their aftermaths over a short period of time. In recounting the lessons learned from and privilege of being a part of the Tucker family "drama," Ray Duff reminds viewers "that although there inevitably is loss in what they encounter through their work in the health professions, there also is hope."
When we meet Frankie "Starlight," (Corbin Walker) he has become, suddenly, an acclaimed writer, and the center of Ireland’s literary circle. In frequently interrupted flashbacks viewers become acquainted with the memoirs in his best-selling book. Much of this story, his story, is about Bernadette (Anne Parillaud), Frankie’s remarkable mother, her life prior to his birth, and the life that they would share until her death.
Bernadette’s story begins in France in the days before the D-Day invasion. She and her family live on the Normandy coast of occupied France where they suffer wartime abuses and atrocities imposed by Nazi soldiers. Just prior to D-Day, Bernadette and her teen-age friends discover an unusual metal object on the dunes. When the object explodes, only Bernadette survives. Shortly thereafter, and minutes before the D-Day attack, her father is brutally executed by the soldiers with all villagers, including Bernadette, bearing witness. Not surprisingly, these two traumatic events leave her damaged and scarred.
Bernadette escapes to Ireland on an American troop ship where she becomes pregnant with Frankie. The remainder of the story concerns her loving and supportive relationship with her child, a dwarf. Other characters include two of Bernadette’s lovers sensitively played by Gabriel Byrne and, later, Matt Dillon. Their relationships with her and her young son bring bizarre twists to an already unusual story. Set in France, Ireland, Texas, and back to Ireland.
Ten months after being burned over 68% of his body, Dax Cowart was interviewed on videotape at the University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston by Dr. Robert B. White. Blind, disfigured and helpless, Dax had consistently asserted his right to refuse medical treatment, including further corrective surgery on his hands (useless, unsightly stumps) as well as the daily, excruciatingly painful baths in the Hubbard tank.
At the time of his admission to UTMB, he had become adamant that he be allowed to leave the hospital and return home to die--a certain outcome since only daily tankings would prevent overwhelming infection. Dr. White had been called in as a psychiatric consultant, and much of the twenty-nine minute documentary is a conversation between patient and psychiatrist.
Calm and coherent, Dax states his wishes clearly and presents his case compellingly. He does not "want to go through the pain"; he does not "want to go on as a blind and a crippled person"; and he does not understand or accept any physician’s "right to keep alive a patient who wants to die."
Helen McNulty (Laura Dern) is a reporter. She and her photographer boyfriend, Jan, are on assignment in an unnamed Central American country when they witness militia shooting at protesters. They are both arrested/abducted.
The story picks up a year later. Helen is back in the United States, working on a story about Dr. Anna Lenke (Vanessa Redgrave), a psychiatrist who runs a clinic for survivors of torture. Dr. Lenke herself was raped and tortured at Auschwitz. Helen interviews her, and goes to stay at the clinic to work on her story. Anna recognizes at once that Helen, too, has been tortured.
Helen gradually comes to acknowledge what happened to her. The process culminates in her narrating, and our seeing in flashback, her torture and the murder of her boyfriend. Helen’s recovery is intertwined with and complicated by the story of Tomas Ramirez (Raul Julia), who also identifies himself as a survivor of torture and is at the clinic not only for therapy but because he is in hiding. Helen and Thomas become friends, then lovers, and he is instrumental in her recovery.
As a journalist, though, Helen delves into Thomas’s background and learns that he was not a victim but a perpetrator of torture. Helen turns him over to the authorities and he is arrested. Dr. Lenke’s last words about Tomas, that only once he has confessed can he again be human, rings hollowly: he has already confessed, to her and the other torture survivors at the clinic, and no court of law can present a harsher judge.
Longtime Companion begins on July 3, 1981, the day that the New York Times printed its first major story about a rare disease, Kaposi’s sarcoma, which was affecting gay men. The opening images of Fire Island’s beaches and woods and brunches and discos convey an idyllic "before AIDS" world--a dream of beauty and immortality, a world of innocence and freedom. What follows, in a series of vignettes, is the devastating and far-reaching impact of the epidemic on the lives of seven gay men: all white, all attractive, all successful.
The film both places the disease in an historical and sociological context and depicts complex and meaningful relationships between and among the characters. One of the most poignant expressions of love and loss on celluloid is the gentle, selfless care given by David (Bruce Davison) to his dying partner, Sean (Mark Lamos). Or to use the most common euphemism found in the many obituaries of the time, his "longtime companion."
Tuck Pendleton (Dennis Quaid) is an airforce pilot. His girlfriend, Lydia (Meg Ryan), leaves him because of his drinking problem. Tuck becomes involved in a top-secret project to miniaturize humans and inject them into the human body. Tuck is the first experimental subject; he is to travel, in a tiny pod, inside the body of a lab rabbit.
This is complicated when, once Tuck and his pod have been shrunk and placed in a syringe ready for injection, the film’s villains, led by the sinister Victor Scrimshaw, break into the laboratory and steal the microchip needed to restore Tuck to his normal size. A scientist escapes with the syringe containing Tuck. Iago, Scrimshaw’s henchman, chases him and, to keep the technology out of their hands, the scientist injects Tuck into Jack Tupper (Martin Short), who just happens to be nearby.
Jack is a hypochondriac who works at a supermarket checkout. When Tuck creates a computer link-up to Jack’s vision and hearing, and speaks to him, Jack believes he has been possessed; his physician suspects a psychiatric disorder. After much anxiety, Tuck explains things, enlisting Jack to track down the villains and get the stolen microchip from them. With Lydia’s help, they thwart the villains (and reduce them to half their normal size).
After journeying inside both Jack and Lydia’s bodies (he moves from one to the other when Jack kisses Lydia), Tuck is rescued and restored to his normal size. Tuck and Lydia reconcile and marry, and Jack, given new confidence by having Tuck within him (like a macho kind of internal inspirational tape), is cured of his hypochondria and anxiety and finds a new life for himself.
Brilliant, liberated Iris Murdoch (Kate Winslet/Judi Dench) captures the utter devotion of awkward John Bayley (Hugh Bonneville/Jim Broadbent), whom she inexplicably chooses to be her life partner. The film transfers often between their earliest adventures as students, when Murdoch reveled in shocking the more conventional young man--to stages in the inexorable deterioration of her mind and Bayley’s attempts to keep her going as a writer and a human being.
Memorable scenes include Bayley’s continued admiration of the mature woman’s brilliance, his midnight rage against their lot, and underwater swimming that contrasts nubile daring youth with clumsy, terrified age. In the final minutes, Iris is left in a light-filled institution with kind attendants; her death is hidden. The viewer realizes that this is his tale, not hers.
Young Maurice Hall (James Wilby) is instructed in the facts of life by his well-intentioned teacher (Simon Callow), who warns the fatherless child never to speak of it to his mother or sisters. The boy says that he will never marry; the teacher promises that he will.
Years later, Maurice is at Cambridge, silent, prudish, inexperienced, adhering to his teacher’s wisdom, until he finds himself falling in love with the young aristocrat, Clive Durham (Hugh Grant). When they realize that their affection is mutual, Maurice loses direction as a scholar, skips classes and chapel. He is "sent down" with no hope of return unless he apologizes, which he refuses to do. For his part, Clive acknowledges the powerful sexual feelings, but will not act on them, conscious of the ruin that will befall him and his family if the relations are discovered. He hopes for a life managing his family estate and a career in politics. Platonic love between men is best, he says.
Middle-class Maurice goes into banking and earns a respectable living without a degree. Clive completes his studies and assumes the family estate, but when he decides to marry a woman whom he met in Greece, Maurice is devastated at his own loss and at the monstrous lie that Clive is willing to live.
Perhaps, Maurice wonders, the "love that dare not speak its name" is a disease. He seeks medical advice from the old family friend Dr. Barry (Denholm Elliott) who misunderstands his problem as venereal infection, which he cheerfully offers to treat; however, when Maurice bravely persists by confessing his unnatural longings--on which he still has yet to act--the doctor responds with anger and revulsion. Maurice then consults a sympathetic hypnotist (Ben Kingsley) who tries to cure him; finding the patient resistant, he suggests emigration to a country more accepting of his "kind."
A frequent guest in the strange Durham household, Maurice likes Clive’s vapid wife, sensing without certainty that the marriage is celibate. He falls in love with their gamekeeper, Alec Scudder (Rupert Graves), a deeply intelligent rustic, bound to quit domestic service and Old England for Argentina. Smitten with passion, they conduct a one-night affair. Simultaneously, however, they are wracked with fear: Maurice fully expects Alec to blackmail him; Alec fully expects Maurice to reject him for not being a gentleman. Society makes it nearly impossible for them to trust each other.
Maurice confronts Clive to say goodbye, choosing identity over social approbation, education, wealth, and privilege.
This film is biographical, based on the life of the actress Frances Farmer (1914-1970), who was briefly successful in Hollywood in the early 1940’s and was then institutionalized for mental illness. She was "cured" by a transorbital prefrontal lobotomy.
The film begins with Frances (Jessica Lange) winning a high school writing competition with an essay criticizing God. This outspoken intelligence characterizes her. As a young actress, she wins a trip to Russia in a competition run by a Communist newspaper, performs on Broadway, and ends up in Hollywood. Quickly, however, it becomes clear that her unconventional behavior and attitudes make her vulnerable to people, including her overbearing and vicariously ambitious mother (Kim Stanley), who demand that she conform to more passive forms of femininity.
When Frances is arrested for drunk driving, her mother puts her in a "convalescent home," where she is given insulin injections in the guise of "vitamins." She escapes and, deciding that the pressures of the film industry are causing her drinking problem, tells her mother that she won’t be returning to Hollywood. Her starstruck mother, appalled, has her committed.
After undergoing the closely filmed experiences of the strait jacket, the padded cell, and shock treatment, all in the frighteningly bedlam-like atmosphere of the asylum, Frances submits to psychiatric surgery. This is perhaps the most disturbing part of the film. She is lobotomized in front of an audience by a mallet-wielding surgeon who boasts he can do ten patients per hour because "lobotomy gets ’em home."
Sure enough, Frances is allowed to go home. The film ends several years later in 1958, when Frances Farmer really did appear on the television show, "This is Your Life." We watch the show through the eyes of Harry York (Sam Shepard), the journalist who has always loved her, and he goes to meet her afterwards.
She has been transformed: composed and seemingly serene, but fundamentally blank, she has become a chilling shadow of herself. Early on in the film, she refuses to cooperate with a psychotherapist, saying "I don’t want to be what you want to make me: dull, average, normal." By the end of the film she has been reduced to the hollow appearance of all these things--and is grateful for it.
The surgeon Jack McKee (William Hurt) carries on an outwardly successful practice while treating his patients with aggressive sarcasm and general disrespect. "There is a danger in becoming too involved with your patients," he warns his residents, reminding them of the surgeon’s credo: "Get in, fix it, get out." Then McKee himself is diagnosed with cancer of the vocal chords, and the doctor discovers patienthood. The process is enormously uncomfortable for him, as he experiences a sharp decline in autonomy and everything that goes with it, and he begins to develop some empathy for those he has always scorned.
Particularly inspiring are several encounters with a coldly professional specialist and a platonic friendship with a young cancer patient named June (Elizabeth Perkins) who is dying because her doctors failed to diagnose her brain tumor. By the end of the film, Dr. McKee is both recovered and converted, and in the last scene is requiring his residents to spend 72 hours as hospital patients as part of their medical training.