Decoding Annie Parker” 91 mins. Drama/Based on Real Life Story Director/Writer: Steven Bernstein Cast: Annie Parker (Samantha Morton), Dr. Mary Claire King (Helen Hunt), Paul (Aaron Paul), Sarah (Maggie Grace)
Synopsis: The lives of two women, Annie Parker and Mary Claire King, weave in and out of the movie. As Annie looses first her mother, then her sister, she becomes obsessed with not getting cancer herself. She, as a high school graduate, begins to research the connection that breast cancer has a genetic link. Through the years she writes letters to her hero, Dr. Mary-Claire King, a fully dedicated geneticist but rather severe, stoic character as portrayed in this movie. As time goes by, Annie Parker is diagnosed first with breast cancer, then ovarian cancer and eventually a third cancer, fighting immeasurable odds. Simultaneously, Dr. King devotes her life to finding the gene that is dominant in some families which leads to breast and ovarian cancers. Dr King is initially criticized and dismissed in the medical community but struggles on with her medical staff to prove her theory.
This movie gave me a much greater idea of what a cancer patients endure, compounded by the ignorance of the seventies, eighties and nineties medical community. It reminds me of the necessity of being one’s own advocate. Director, Steven Bernstein (Water to Chocolate), does an exceptional job in revealing just how patients were treated at that time. I was lucky enough to meet the Director at the La Costa Film Festival and congratulated him on accomplishing a truly wonderful job with this educational, haunting rendition of the courage of two women.
As Annie fights on she discoveries her young, immature husband having an affair with her late sister’s best friend. This is, indeed, a somber story with incidents of Annie’s feisty personality and humor giving relief to a score of emotions: love, loss, betrayal, infidelity, suffering and most of all hope.
Samantha Morton is outstanding in her portrayal as the feisty, funny, determined young woman whose life is changed in every respect by cancer. An Academy nomination can’t be too far away. Bernstein has already won The Alfred P. Sloan Foundation Feature Film Prize in Science and Technology, Morton won Best Actress at the Seattle International Film Festival for this film.
Dr. Mary-Claire Morton currently studies genetics, HIV, lupus, inherited deafness and some breast and ovarian cancers at the University of Washington. Her awards are too numerous to list. The discovery of the BRCA1 gene is considered one of the most important scientific discoveries of the twentieth century.