Friday Flicks: The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks

Henrietta Lacks single handedly changed the course of scientific research and discovery. Unless you have read author Rebecca Skloot's bestselling novel The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, you have probably never heard of her. Lack's was a young African American woman who succumbed to cervical cancer in the 1950's. Lack's cancer cells, known in the scientific community as HeLa, were rare in that they were infinitely replicable and could be grown in a lab. As such, these immortal cells became paramount in the research of curing diseases.

Rather than focusing on the questionable moral nature of such research, especially considering the massive profits made by those who used the cells, the book and subsequent film focus more on Lack's life and the people she left behind. Oprah Winfrey stars as Deborah, Lack's daughter. Deborah is hesitant when aspiring author Rebecca (Rose Byrne) contacts her about writing a book on Henrietta. Years of misinformation and mental illness color Deborah's life, and reluctance on the part of her siblings to speak about the past only adds to this paranoia. But curiosity wins out and the two embark on the incredible journey of discovering the life of Henrietta and in turn discovering more about themselves.

I actually haven't read the book, but I was immediately drawn into this story. I was surprised at the way Winfrey disappeared into her role. She perfectly captured the distrust and paranoia of the mentally ill Deborah while still making her a sympathetic and emotionally genuine being. What begins as a voyage into the past quickly becomes one of friendship and respect. This is ultimately a "feel good" film that doesn't stray into enough depth to be completely satisfying. I felt as if the story ended without ever provided a true sense of resolution. Still, as a made for TV film, it hits all of the right notes. I only wish the story and rest of the film could have lived up to the performance that Winfrey provides. The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks is currently playing on HBO and HBO Go.

This entry was posted on Friday, May 5, 2017 and is filed under ,,,,. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response.

4 Responses to “Friday Flicks: The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks”

  1. I'm so glad to see this review. I learned about this book through my mom... at the time I had no idea who Henrietta Lacks was. I haven't read the book either but I have this movie on my DVR waiting to be watched so I'm going to move it up my list of things to watch now.

    1. You'll have to let me know what you thought of it!

  2. I hadn't heard of this movie before, but it sounds like one I would be interested in myself. It sounds like Winfrey does a brilliant job of accurately playing her role as well.


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