The Immortal Life Of Henrietta Lacks
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The Immortal Life Of Henrietta Lacks (Digital HD/Blu-Ray)
Boasting an exceptional cast and production team, and based on Rebecca Skloot's critically acclaimed 2010 nonfiction best-seller of the same name, this HBO Films drama tells the true story of Henrietta Lacks, an African-American woman whose cells were used to create the first immortal human cell line.]]>
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Henrietta Lacks was 31 and a mother of five children when she died at Baltimore’s Johns Hopkins hospital of cervical cancer in 1951. The doctors there took a sample of her malignant tissues as part of their search for a line of cells that were able to survive and reproduce outside the body, and thus make possible medical experiments that they were not able to perform on living bodies. Henrietta’s cells were perfect, and became the basis for new treatments for diseases such as tuberculosis, flu, herpes. Aids, and for the development of chemotherapy.
Ms. Winfrey (“The Color Purple”) turns in a heart-wrenching performance as Deborah, a woman given to violent temper outbursts, frustrated as being unable to obtain information about her mother after years of trying, and yearning for her lost mother. Deborah is a damaged woman from a combination of loss, lies told to her, condescension from the white establishment, and injustice. Ms. Winfrey immerses herself so deeply into the character that, after a few minutes, we accept her completely as Deborah. This is not the smiling, glamorous Oprah we know from TV, but an elderly woman with a limp, closely cropped greying hair, and eyes that convey sadness. She believably captures Deborah’s dramatic mood shifts. It’s startling to watch her having a civil conversation with Skloot and then suddenly turn on her, her mood turning dark and angry. This is a finely nuanced performance that goes well below the surface. Winfrey manages to convey a lifetime of hurt and disappointment.
The film succeeds in bringing to light the story of this nearly forgotten woman who has played such an important part in modern medicine. With Oprah Winfrey’s outstanding portrayal, the film becomes more than a mere documentary-style drama. It is the very personal story of a woman’s quest to learn the truth about a mother she lost at an early age.
The widescreen Blu-ray release contains a conversation with Oprah Winfrey, Rose Byrne, writer/director George C. Wolfe, and members of the Lacks family about the legacy of Henrietta Lacks. A digital HD copy is enclosed.
Henrietta Lacks is at the heart of a myriad of medical breakthroughs and developments. Polio, AIDS, cancer, tuberculosis and so many more. How you ask? Her cells - cells that didn't die. Cells taken during a cancer biopsy - cancer that killed Lacks in 1951. But taken without and used without her permission. Her family received little information, respect and no compensation. Initially these cells were shared freely amongst medical communities. But later they were charged for, becoming the basis of the biomedical industry. The cells were known as HeLa, but never publicly attributed to Henrietta Lacks.
The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks is told after the death of Henrietta as her daughter Deborah (played by Oprah Winfrey) searches for answers about what happened to her mother, as well as a sense of who that mother really was. That was also the case for Rebecca Skloot (played in the film by Rose Byrne.) Winfrey did a wonderful job conveying Deborah's heartache, confusion and loss. She came across as believable. (Although sometimes it is hard to take 'Oprah' out of her roles.) Byrne does a wonderful job as Skloot. Her dogged determination to find answers for not just Deborah and her family, but for herself and to show the world what really transpired. But at the heart of it - who was Henrietta Lacks? Young Henrietta was played by Renée Elise Goldsberry. The joie de vivre of Henrietta simply shone through in her portrayal.
And what transpired sickened me. Lacks was nothing more than cells to the medical community. The treatment of her and others like her was appalling and despicable. I found myself crying many times at the cavalier nature of their attitudes and actions and the heartache of her children. The treatment of Deobrah's older sister Lily is also a disturbing piece of medical history.
Moving, profound and a story that should have seen the light before now. This viewer loved it.
Henrietta is singlehandedly the reason why so many people have lived on. Her cells have been used in so many diseases, trying to combat or prevent them, that she should be cannonized.
Oprah was the perfect choice as Henrietta's daughter, the reason the story is told in the first place. Her studios also paid for the film, so it is well made. Rose Bryne played a good part. She got to tell Henrietta's story.
I'm so glad I've seen this. Learned her story and I still wamt to read the book too.
Remember there is some emotional scenes but they make the story.