A WOMAN'S TALE tells the story of Martha (Sheila Florance), a near-octogenerian. Now not only old but infirm, she perforce must cope with age's attendant indignities. Yet A WOMAN'S TALE is not dolorous. On the contrary, it is a story of life, love, strength and hope, with a buoyancy that
is invigorating and even inspirational.
Martha bickers with her neighbors, is bullied by her landlord and is annoyed by her apprehensive son. She is also the recipient of ministrations by her caring and deeply sympathetic nurse, Anna (Gosia Dobrowolska), and even lends her her bed for liaisons with her lover. "I will die in this bed"
she tells her; "You should love in it." Martha is surrounded by a bookcase filled with photos and memories, all witness to the fact that she has lived her life to the fullest. She has a cat, Sam; a parakeet, Jesus; and friends who include a local prostitute; a disabled elderly neighbor, Billy
(Norman Kaye), who yearns for the days when he was an Air Force officer; and a Miss Inchley (Myrtle Woods), who, Martha insists, is a 90-year-old virgin. At night, Martha listens to an upbeat radio talk show and often calls in when she feels she can help a troubled caller. She possesses a keen
intelligence and a spritely, often bawdy wit, although her longtime incapacitation has given her a fragility that warrants a "handle with care" approach.
Director Paul Cox (LONELY HEARTS, MAN OF FLOWERS) specifically designed A WOMAN'S TALE as a starring vehicle for Sheila Florance (THE DEVIL'S PLAYGROUND, SUMMERFIELD), a noted Australian actress. At the time Cox wrote the screenplay with Barry Dickens, Florance was terminally ill with cancer. One
week after receiving the Australian Film Institute best actress award in October 1991, she died in a Melbourne hospital at age 75. In retrospect, Cox has noted that "the greatness of her performance lies in the fact that, despite the subject, she portrayed the beauty of life and her courage and
determination gave new meaning to the word 'love'."
A WOMAN'S TALE is a small masterpiece that, despite its focus on a dying woman, is full of life and vibrant with love. Cox has created not an elegy or a dirge but an affirmation of life. It is that rare gem of a "small" film that assures its eternal worth.
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