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article imageReview: 'A Woman Like Me' is a unique cancer journey Special

By Michael Thomas     Apr 25, 2015 in Entertainment
When Alex Sichel found out she had breast cancer — an incurable form, at that — she began to work through accepting her diagnosis with a film mirroring her life.
Though the "hybrid" documentary format can sometimes be difficult to follow, A Woman Like Me manages to easily separate the fact from fiction.
Sichel, before her diagnosis, had directed and written a few films, and that influence must have been going through her head after she heard the news. She describes in the film how she suddenly had her life playing through her head as a movie, with someone else playing her.
Enter Lili Taylor, who plays the fictionalized version of Alex Sichel — Anna Seashell. Interspersed throughout the movie are re-enactments featuring the Seashells — namely Anna and her husband — as they move through milestone events, from getting the news to Anna practicing her "death scene," a scene that bookends this documentary.
These re-enactments are only a fraction of what the movie is about, however. Sichel's first place to turn to for help with her cancer isn't western medicine, but naturopaths and "holistic healers" and their ilk. Interviews with her family members show they're not supportive of this form of "medicine," and when Sichel visits them, it's hard not to agree with them. Some of these people Sichel visits use items like "vision boards" to tell her what is and isn't good for her.
As the film goes on, Sichel becomes notably less upbeat about her chances of survival, especially after undergoing several months of chemotherapy. After hearing a story about a man who was told he had little time to live and went home to Greece (and ended up surviving), SIchel too goes to Greece, but it won't amount to much for her.
And though the fact and fiction are easy to tell apart, some of the people in Sichel's life start to get them confused, particularly during a dinner with Alex and her daughter Anastasia. Sichel seemingly suggests her husband Erich "act" for the documentary, leading to a small argument as to what the true definition of "documentary" actually is.
At times funny and often reflective, A Woman Like Me is a hybrid documentary done right.
A Woman Like Me is now screening at the 2015 Hot Docs film festival in Toronto. For more of Digital Journal's coverage, click here.
More about a woman like me, alex sichel, elizabeth giamatti, Breast Cancer, Hot docs
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