Emma Thompson, Christopher Lloyd, Eileen Atkins, Audra McDonald, Jonathan M. Woodward
HBO Home Video 2001

Some movies require a dark sense of humour – a black sense of humour if the truth be told. Wit is one of those movies which offers intelligence, pathos and humour all in one tightly cast package. Emma Thompson (Nanny McPhee, The Remains of The Day) is responsible for the teleplay version of Margaret Edson’s play and Thompson is also the star playing professor Viviane Bearing. It is not a spoiler to say that this is a movie about cancer because it is obvious from the moment one picks up the DVD box.

Wit is not a comedy but there are comedic elements and some laugh out loud moments. An appreciation for irony and the poetry of John Donne also helps to appreciate the full impact of this unusual little movie.  Margaret Edson’s writing is superb and the television adaptation by Thompson is equally due that same superlative.  Emma Thompson portrayal of Vivian Bearing is simply sublime. There is not one moment from the time she appears on screen until the end of the movie in which the performance is less than perfect.

Christopher Lloyd as Dr. Harvey Kelekian the oncologist who prescribes for Vivian a brutal experimental treatment to try an cure her ovarian cancer is almost but not quite comedic in his role. Kelekian is essentially Vivian Bearing in the form of a male oncology researcher. He is her reflection a fact which she does not mistake as she comes to understand her own life and short comings. This is a movie about self discovery in a context which allows for little self pity, no wasting of time and an iron will. Vivian Bearing lives up to her name and her own belief in herself as she comes to understand the limits of the metaphysical and the importance of the tangible.

Not everyone will have the wit to smile, laugh and cry on Vivian’s journey but it is a journey which is well worth everyone’s time. Wit is a keeper.

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