Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBBBB.
USA, 1992. Atchafalaya. Screenplay by John Sayles. Cinematography by Roger Deakins. Produced by Sarah Green, Maggie Renzi. Music by Mason Daring. Production Design by Dan Bishop, Dianna Freas. Costume Design by Cynthia Flynt. Film Editing by John Sayles.
John Sayles’ masterpiece is this brilliant two-character drama that you wish could go on forever. After she is paralyzed from the waist down in an auto accident, a bitter soap opera actress (Mary McDonnell) decides to move back home to her parents’ house in Louisiana. She hires a hilarious succession of nurses to take care of her until finally settling on one (Alfre Woodard), an equally willful, equally stubborn woman who challenges her to improve physically and emotionally every step of the way. The nurse isn’t exactly the epitome of perfection either, and as the story progresses we learn about a few skeletons in her closet. As these two women share their best and worst moments together, they end up bettering each other’s lives just by having each other to rely on, and Sayles betters our lives by letting us witness it. It features excellent dialogue, a perfect supporting cast (including Nora Dunn and Angela Bassett), real drama and plenty of laughs, then topped off by two of the greatest actresses of their generation doing their very finest work.
Academy Award Nominations: Best Actress (Mary McDonnell); Best Original Screenplay
Golden Globe Award Nominations: Best Actress-Drama (Mary McDonnell); Best Supporting Actress (Alfre Woodard)