Cast: Samantha Morton, Aaron Paul, Helen Hunt
Director: Steven Bernstein
Running time: 100 mins
Rating: M (sex scenes, offensive language)
Verdict: This astonishingly clumsy drama is rescued from the harshest rating only by Morton's convincing title-role performance as a Canadian woman stricken by breast cancer.
The "decoding" refers to the work done at UC Berkeley by renowned geneticist Mary-Claire King, whose accomplishments included developing genomic sequencing to identify the stolen children in Argentina's "dirty war" and demonstrating that humans and chimpanzees are 99 per cent genetically identical.
In research that started in the 1970s and took place in the face of indifference, if not outright hostility, from a hidebound and sexist medical establishment, she established that certain types of breast cancer have a genetic component.
King would be a hell of a subject for a film, but this ain't it. Hunt is a terrific actress but here she sits at desks and frowns, or spouts banal expository dialogue in which she tells researchers stuff they already know so we can understand what's going on.
AdvertisementAdvertise with NZME.
More preposterously, her team spends a lot of time tracking down families in which breast cancer has struck repeatedly, but no one even answers the multiple letters from Parker, whose mother and sister died from the disease. Indeed King and Parker don't meet until the last scene - which, inexplicably, occurs at the beginning too - when King, who has ignored her for 20 years, salutes her as "a remarkable woman".
This may be faithful to the facts, but it makes for dire drama. And we already have plenty of that as we watch Annie endure surgery; chemo (complete with green vomiting); betrayal by a wannabe rock star husband (Paul, whose series of bad wigs fail to erase the memory of Breaking Bad's Jesse) and (of course) being patronised by doctors in bow ties ("Look, Annie," says one. "White coat. Stethoscope. You can trust me.").
For a film whose epigraph is "My life was a comedy; I just had to laugh", this is lamentably short of humour (running gags about odious mourners and computers capable of storing 700 kilobytes just grate). It's also lamentably short of coherence and seems to have been edited by someone with delirium tremens.
A final on-screen slide telling us the real Annie has "recovered completely" from cancer for the third time - which is both medically inaccurate and a contradiction in terms - just adds insult to injury. Dreadful.