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The Last Best Year
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This movie is absolutely haunting. I had seen it when it originally aired but recently got it on vhs and ended up watching it 2 nights in a row. The subtlety with which Bernadette Peters plays the role of the dying woman makes the characters impending death all the more heartrending. Her vulnerability coupled with her dignity really make you care deeply about what is happening to her. Mary Tyler-Moore also brings a necessary piece into this film with her sensitivity and compassion into her role as the caring therapist which coupled with Bernadette Peters portrayal complete the picture. They play off of each other brilliantly. Be forewarned that this movie is very sad but if you don't mind a lump in your throat and tears uncontrollably streaming down your face then this is the movie for you.
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The other day, for some odd reason, I thought of this movie and decided to see if it had finally made it to DVD. Hallelujah, it had! So I ordered it, and it arrived in today's mail.
I watched it tonight, and it was as good as I remembered, although I don't remember crying as much as I did this time around.
The Last Best Year is about Jane Murray, (Bernadette Peters) a woman who's very alone. She returns from a business trip to London feeling unwell, so she makes an appointment to see her doctor, who draws blood and runs some tests. As it turns out, she has metastatic cancer of the liver and is given about eight months to live. A plea to her married lover results in... nothing. Jerry is so terrified she might make demands on his time that he returns her key and walks out, not even giving her a chance to explain her terminal condition.
Her doctor recommends a psychologist, and after a somewhat rocky start, Jane agrees to see Wendy Haller. (Mary Tyler Moore) When Wendy learns Jane has no intention of telling anyone about her condition, (does Jane consciously realize she's dying? At this point, she might still be in denial.) Wendy suggests it might be for her friends as much as for herself.
Amy, Jane's secretary, (this is 1990, remember) contacts the big boss of the travel company they works for, the man who saw something special in Jane and who gave her a chance to succeed. Because she's such a private person, Jane hadn't wanted to bother him with her problem, but he dictated a letter to the head honcho in Chicago, stating that Jane was to take as much time off as she needed, and the company would do everything to accommodate her.(He's one of only a few men in Jane's life who are halfway decent. Peter, her subordinate, being one, and Amy's boyfriend being the other.)
Jane's favorite day is Christmas, and when she starts fading and it doesn't seem as if she'll make it the four weeks until December 25, Wendy, Amy, and Aunt Lizzie, Jane's only surviving relative, decide to give her Christmas early. Shortly afterward, Jane "goes into the light," as Wendy urges her. The movie doesn't end on a sorrowful note, however. On the actual Christmas Day, all her friends turn up at her favorite spot and share memories of her.
1990 was a difficult year for my family. We lost my father and a beloved cousin, as well as numerous other family members. Watching this movie helped me get through that.
And today, almost twenty-seven years since the first time I watched it, it again brought me comfort.