This story of Vivian Bearing, a scholar of English literature suddenly faced with a diagnosis of terminal ovarian cancer, is a harrowing, yet deeply humane narrative of encounters with 21st century experimental medicine. Equally significant, it also becomes a powerful exploration of personal awakening in the face of inevitable mortality. Emma Thompson offers a brilliant performance as the central character, and flashbacks provide perspective as we see Bearings mentor, E.M. Ashford (Eileen Atkins), and her father (Harold Pinter) exert their influence during her formative years. Directed by Mike Nichols who, with Thompson, adapted Margaret Edson’s award-winning play for film, Wit captures the emotional irony and dark comedic elements of the original. Wit sent shockwaves through the medical community when it opened, forcing medical practitioners to evaluate their ability to administer care when cure is not possible. Edson received special recognition from the Oncology Nursing Society, and Wit, subsequently used as a training manual for physicians and nurses in advanced patient care, won accolades from the medical profession. In this production Christopher Lloyd’s character, Dr. Kelekian trades on the stereotypical idiosyncrasies of a detached physician, while Audra McDonald plays his antithesis, Susie Monahan, a sweet tempered private nurse in whom Bearing confides. Executive Producers Cary Brokaw and Mike Nichols, Producer Simon Bosanquet and Co-Producers Julie Lynn, Charles F. Ryan and Mike Haley recruited medical consultants and clinical nurses to guide actors and filmmakers. Thompson is utterly convincing in her physical descent through the aggressive stage-four metastatic ovarian cancer. A Peabody goes to Wit for an unforgettable drama in which a woman faces her own mortality with frankness, dignity and humor.
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