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“You have cancer.” This is the opening line of Mike Nichols’ film Wit. The film is a first person account by Literature Professor Vivian (Emma Thompson) of her experience in hospital after she is diagnosed with Ovarian Cancer. Starting with the diagnosis by her Doctor (Christopher Lloyd), the film jumps immediately to a point much later in the story, in which Vivian is already deep into therapy. It is here she takes us on a blow-by blow as to her initial treatment, her tests and her admittance into hospital. When the story catches up, we move forward as her condition worsens.

Wit is not a pleasant film. Watching Vivian go through her treatment is a painful experience. The film is so effective in most respects that to say how unpleasant the film is would almost make you feel bad as it’s nothing compared to what the character is going through on screen.

The films main selling point is the performance by Emma Thompson. She captures Vivian so well that there are times where you forget you’re watching a film. She totally sells the pain that her character is going through, and becomes unrecognisable as her condition continues to worsen. Thompson co-wrote the screenplay with Nichols.

Although Thomson is wonderful, the mood and tone of the film becomes disjoined at times due to some shifts in her narration. There are times where it works wonders, but one has to wonder why it was the she actually has to stop and talk to the camera about what it would be like if she wrote this scene, or screaming “action” as the lighting changes and another scene begins. It really separates the viewer from the drama, which when at it’s best is very captivating.

Also dragging the film down is the lack of development on characters other than Vivian. Although Nurse Susie (Audra McDonald) and Mentor Evelyn (Eileen Atkins) are nicely rounded characters, Doctors Kelekian (Lloyd) and Posner (Jonathon Woodward, who Angel fans will recognise) remain a mystery. Their relationship with Vivian is never fully explored as well as it should have been, which makes it hard to see if they really care about her health. They’re performances are decent however, in particular Woodward (who I actually had the pleasure of meeting recently) who does quite well with a character unlike any he’s ever played before.

All that aside the film is quite well designed, with Vivian’s non-film related narration serving the plot grandly. This way she is able to really connect with the viewer and give us a good sense of what she is going through and what is going through her head as her health fades. As mentioned, Thompson really sells Vivian and you will be on the same page as her all the way through thanks to her amazing work.

A warning however, this film is not and easy one to watch. Watching Vivian’s health slip is an exhausting and heartbreaking experience, and as the film progresses it only gets worse. Viewers have turned this film off because they can’t stand watching this woman suffer anymore. Although it’s powerful and dramatic, you will be glad when the credits role. Keep a box of tissues handy.

All up Wit is a totally decent look into the mind of a cancer victim. The film does have a few dragging points but overall is ultimately captivating thanks to the outstanding performance of Emma Thompson. It gets more and more had to watch as it progresses but when it’s at its best you will not be able to look away.


Presented in 1.85:1 widescreen, Wit comes out pretty well for a video title. The colours are well separated and come out fairly well, if maybe a tad over-vibrant in some outdoor scenes. There does not seem to be much in the level of grain either. The most noticeable problem is the occasional interference of film artefacts, but overall it’s a totally decent transfer.



An English Dolby 2.0 Stereo track. Sound is fairly good. Dialogue is always clear, if not a tad soft compared to some of the music, which can be overloud. There did appear to be some minor lip-synch problems early on, but it did not persist. There was some leakage of music and ambient sounds filtered into the surrounds but not much. But for a dialogue-heavy film of this nature, the track is totally decent.


Cast and Crew bios. That seems to be it.



A very sad film, but is worth the pain of watching for the performance of Emma Thompson, who takes this film and really makes it her own. This is a pretty below radar sort of film so the video and audio are as to be expected. The DVD really lacks in the extras though. A shame. Not the kind of movie that is worth owning due to the heaviness of the plot, but worth a one-off viewing no doubt.