Sensitive and controversial themes about treatment of the aged and terminally ill are tackled with distinction in Paul Cox’ A Woman’s Tale which bears all the director’s hallmarks. Pic is structured around one of Cox’ favourite actresses, veteran Sheila Florance, who carries the film on her frail shoulders. Her Martha is terminally ill yet fiercely determined to hold on to her independence. She lives alone in a small city apartment with her cat, canary and memories.
A nurse, Anna, visits her every day and Martha even lets her use her apartment for afternoon trysts with her married lover. Gosia Dobrowolska plays the nurse with sweetness and sensitivity.
Living in the next-door apartment is the equally old and even frailer Billy (Norman Kaye, in a tremendously touching performance). Anna also visits Billy, but is unamused when he makes pathetic sexual advances towards her.
These characters, and others, are, however, marginal. As Martha, Florance dominates the film and is in almost every scene. It’s no secret Florance was seriously ill during production.