11 March 2007 | gradyharp
A Genuinely Fine and Fresh Look at an Ongoing Problem
Once again HBO has produced a film for television that will doubtless be a success not only in its televised version but on theater release and/or DVD. LIFE SUPPORT as written by Nelson George, Hannah Weyer and Jim McKay and directed with power and restraint by Nelson George has the courage to delve deeply into the problem of AIDS in the black community and the result is a film that is not only informative but also a story of tremendous power about the sequelae of HIV infection on the lives of those infected and their families.
Based on the true story of a mother who as a rack cocaine addict became infected by her boyfriend's indiscriminate use of a shared needle and with the discovery of her sero-positive status turned her life around to become a powerful positive role model and AIDS activist in the black community. Ana Willis (Queen Latifah in a sterling performance) is married to Slick (Wendell Pierce), both of whom are HIV positive and both work, living with their young daughter Kim (Ravelle Parker) and trying to cope with their estranged daughter Kelly (Rachel Nicks, a true find of a young artist!) who elects to live with her grandmother, Ana's beleaguered mother (Anna Deavere Smith, once again proving she is one of the premiere actors of the day). Kelly and Ana are at odds and their strained relationship is one of the evidences of the cruelties of the aftermath of ex-addicts manner of going straight. Kelly's closest friend is Omari (Evan Ross, gifted actor son of Diana Ross!) who is gay and is very ill with AIDS. Kelly asks for Ana's help when Omari disappears and it is through this act that the story plunges forward into the self help groups of AIDS patients Ana chairs, Ana's visit to Omari's boyfriends such as MJ (Darrin Dewitt Henson) who is very much on the down low, and Ana's ultimate finding herself as a mother, a wife, a caregiver and a fine activist in doing her part to prevent the spread of the dread disease form which she suffers.
The large cast is excellent with outstanding performances by Queen Latifah, Anna Deavere Smith, and Rachel Nicks and strong work by Evan Ross et al. The beauty of the film is the avoidance of grandstanding and overacting: the message is driven home quietly and with respect. It is a fine film that should be seen by everyone. Grady Harp