One True Thing



Few films get the family dynamic right. Carl Franklin's (One True Thing) is a film that does. Another in my list of hidden gems, One True Thing starts on the surface of the Gulden family and then digs deep. William Hurt, Meryl Streep, and Renee Zellweger star in this touching movie about what we perceive and what is real when it comes to the family. Ellen Gulden (Zellweger), is a go getter just like her father George (Hurt) who is head of the English department at an upstate New York university. Ellen works for a magazine in the city. Both are writers. Ellen has always looked up to her father, the literary genius that she perceives him to be. He has been working on his great American novel for years,and he stews about how a sentence is structured. She aches for his approval, and he gives it sparingly. Kate (Streep) is a joyful whimsical woman who is full of life and laugh; something Ellen is not..she takes herself too serious. Her younger brother Brian, is a bit more like mom, lighthearted, quick with a joke and happy.

Ellen and her Mom have never been on the same page. Kate is a homemaker who bakes cookies and coordinates local projects like decorating the town for holidays with a group of woman called (The Minnies).She waits on George hand and foot, always the patient woman as he is frequently very late home from the university. She is a simple housewife as far as Ellen is concerned. That is something her Harvard educated mind cannot understand. She, like her father is too above that sort of thing. Back from the city to attend her father's surprise come as your favorite literary charter birthday party, She finds her mom is dressed as Dorothy Gale from The Wizard of OZ. She is not surprised.

Kate, Ellen finds out from her father, has cancer and he needs for Ellen to come home and help with her. This is a complete and utter disruption for several reasons. One, she can’t get her writing done with deadlines and all if she is back at her parents waiting on her mother; and two she doesn’t understand her at all. Back at her parent’s home, struggling to do her job, she starts to realize the true nature of who her Mom and Dad are, even though growing up, Ellen had her suspicions. George is a selfish and pompous prick of sorts who has had his wife over the years wait on him hand and foot. He also apparently has some late night pity parties at the local watering hole. His wandering eye is the cherry on the top of the sundae. As Kate begins to fail, and George continues on his schedule because Ellen is doing all the work at home, Ellen begins to see Kate in a whole new light. Her blinders are now off and the confrontations that Hurt and Zellweger have are intense, and I have to say, that Zellweger steals the show in them. She gives a great performance with this hard biter brilliant woman that Ellen Gulden is. She is hurt and conveys this effortlessly in this movie.

Carl Franklin, the director of the excellent (One False Move), captures the beauty and charm of this small town with a confident touch.This is how a family and place where everybody knows everybody feels like. I have read some reviews that says is a so called (chick flick),and I think that is a cheap shot at a film that takes a very serious subject of a dying loved one, and tries to be honest and heartfelt in presenting it. Yes, someone getting ill in a film is not original, but the author of the book the film is based on (Anna Quindlen‘s), mother died from cancer. As Kate gets sicker, Streep the great actress she is, has some heart wrenching scenes where a mother tries to give her daughter some understanding of what we expect from our lives, and most of the time, it isn’t even remotely what we thought it would be;that we have to find love where there is anger so we can appreciate this gift of life and family, no matter what fate throws at us. A moving score by the composer Cliff Eidelman really adds to this moving film. I loved this movie. Bring tissues.

watch the trailer: