Movie Review

Wit

MPAA Rating: PG-13 for some thematic material

Reviewed by: Ken James
STAFF WRITER

Better than Average
Moviemaking Quality:

Primary Audience:
Teen to Adult
Genre:
Drama
Length:
1 hr. 45 min.
Year of Release:
2001
USA Release:
March 21, 2001
Relevant Issues
Box art for “Wit”

SUFFERING—Why does God allow the innocent to suffer? Answer

Featuring: Emma Thompson, Christopher Lloyd, Eileen Atkins, Audra McDonald, Harold Pinter
Director: Mike Nichols
Producer: Simon Bosanquet
Distributor: Home Box Office (HBO)

Cinema can be used for many purposes, but some seem to view film as strictly escapist entertainment only. For those types of people it is unfortunate. If we let it, cinema can open up a whole new world that we have no previous knowledge about, and for me this is what “Wit” so remarkably does.

Based on Margaret Edson’s Pulitzer-Prize winning script, “Wit” brings basically a one-woman play to life in the character of Dr. Vivian Bearing (Emma Thompson), a professor of 17th Century poetry who has a lifelong affinity for words. She is single, 47 years old, and diagnosed with stage four ovarian cancer. But rather then let it beat her down, Vivian chooses to follow the advice of her research-loving doctor and go for the “full treatment” that will attempt to cure her in this 8-month-long hospital stay.

“Wit” is masterfully told mostly in the first person as Professor Bearing talks directly to us, the viewer, revealing her innermost thoughts in her present-day treatments, plus her past experiences that help us get to know her well. The only problem is, we start to learn that she has distanced herself from almost everyone that begins to draw near. Vivian is sadly lonely. And without Christ, whom she never even mentions as someone she believes in, I cannot comprehend how anyone can go through such pain and suffering. Even with Christ one can hardly understand the anguish.

We all know someone who has been affected by cancer, then the subsequent chemotherapy and radiation treatments. Yet how much beyond words can one understand without being intimately involved? “Wit” takes us there, in all its ugliness. We learn to groan with Vivian whenever the research doctor/intern with no—zero—bedside manner comes around, yet rejoice when her faithful nurse draws near and shows loving compassion to her. Sharing a popsicle together, the nurse and Vivian discuss quality of life and the ultimate decision of whether or not she should be classified as “DNR” (Do Not Resuscitate) when he heart finally stops beating. Is it more important to add to the unquenchable knowledge of research, or die in dignity? Should she keep going or give up the fight?

In “Wit”, you will cry if you are committed enough to sit through this heavy drama. You will feel her pain, and it is because of this identity with Vivian that “Wit” succeeds. There are about three instances of foul language/cursing, and one scene of non-sexual upper female nudity. Recommended for teens and adults.


Viewer Comments
Neutral—This was an excellent movie, I’m sorry I saw it on cable and never got a chance to watch it at the movie theatre.
My Ratings: [Good / 5]
—William, age 19, non-Christian
Positive—I lost my significant other to cancer in August 2001. I was her 24/7 caregiver her last year and even thought I was no stranger to cancer there were many new milestones I, we had to face and not till viewing WIT was I able to face many of my decisions; should I tell my SO she was dying?; should she know what I do?; should I tell her the doctors decisions?. [Producers:] Thank you for making this movie. It hit home and for anyone asking questions about cancer, this movie answers them. Cancer is mostly a death sentence and WIT pulls no punches.
My Ratings: [Excellent! / 5]
—Harold Hester, age 67