An uplifting tale about growing old. A story of life, love, strength and hope.
Martha (Sheila Florance) is a modern, spirited woman trapped in an old and decrepit body. At almost 80 years of age, she has seen the good and the bad, and now offers her love and wisdom to all who are willing to listen to her.
Her closest ally and comrade in arms is Anna (Gosia Dobrowolska), her District Nurse. Their friendship is based on Anna's support and understanding of Martha's independent spirit. Martha has her own moral code and lives by her own rules. Finding the world far too cynical and heartless, she refuses to accept society's constraint on growing old and fights the establishment with great humour and compassion.
The death of her neighbour, Billy (Norman Kaye), confronts Martha, extinguishing her passion and leaving her exhausted and depressed. Her ability to care for herself diminishes and forgetfulness leads to accidents. Her son and the authorities decide it's time for her to be committed to a home for the aged.
But Martha has other plans. She cannot live without honour, and makes her own final decision.
Director: Paul Cox
Producer: Santhana K. Naidu, Paul Cox
Writer: Paul Cox, Barry Dickins
Cinematographer: Nino Gaetano Martinetti
Cast: Sheila Florance, Chris Haywood, Gosia Dobrowolska, Norman Kaye, Myrtle Woods, Ernest Gray
Born in Holland and settled in Melbourne since the mid-‘60s, Paul Cox is an auteur of international acclaim, having received numerous international awards. He is one of the most prolific makers of films in Australia, with numerous features, shorts and documentaries to his name. He is the recipient of many special tributes and retrospectives at film festivals across the world, including a major retrospective at the Lincoln Centre in New York in 1992.
His films of the early and mid ‘80s – Lonely Hearts (1981), Man of Flowers (1983), and My First Wife (1984) – were highly acclaimed both locally and internationally.
Man of Flowers premiered in Un Certain Regard at the Cannes Film Festival in 1984, and went on to win Best Film at the 1984 Valladolid Film Festival as well as Best Foreign Film at the 1991 Warsaw Film Festival.
Cactus premiered in Director's Fortnight at the Cannes Film Festival in 1986 and Vincent won the Jury Prize at the 1988 Istanbul International Filmdays.
A Woman's Tale won the Grand Prix at the 1992 International Flanders Film Festival in Ghent and Exile screened in competition at the 1994 Berlin International Film Festival.
More recently, Cox's highly acclaimed feature Innocence (2000) won massive audience and critical acclaim, including Best Film and the People's Choice Award at the 2000 Montreal World Film Festival; and 5 Australian IF awards including Best Film, Independent Filmmaker of the Year for Paul Cox, and Best Actress for Julia Blake.
Cox’s career continues currently, with features such as Human Touch (2004) and Salvation (2008).
Winner AFI Award for Best Actress: Sheila Florance
Grand Prix at the 1992 International Flanders Film Festival in Ghent
Quoting IMDb: Not many people get to dedicate their lives literally, to film in such a way that they leave behind the greatest of diaries you could never have committed to paper. Sheila Florance, grand dame of Australian television and the big-screen has managed just that. At 78 years of age and dying of cancer herself, she plays elderly Martha, who's terminal cancer is no barrier to her enjoying her last days with her family, the image of dignity and wisdom - traits that she has shown all her life.
This marvellous life-affirming film is one of Paul Cox's best, in fact one of Australia's finest productions. It would be impossible not to be significantly moved by it and taking perhaps a minute or three to review your own life and direction.
Sheila Florance, beloved of many long-term viewers, died just two days after receiving her AFI award for Best Actress for her role as Martha. It was a fitting reward for a lifetime's contribution made.
Paul Cox is one of the most important filmmakers to come out of Australia ... he is a filmmaker of incredible energy, persistence and vision - all qualities which are crucial to survive as a filmmaker. He is also uncompromising in fulfilling his vision which is almost always achieved with comparatively small budgets of about $1 million. As a director, he has an ongoing screen relationship with many of Australia's greatest actors. The themes in his films - isolation, faith, hope, love, survival - remain the same and reoccur over and over, but above all else his films are about human frailty ...
Philip Tyndall, "Paul Cox - Filmmaker", Senses of Cinema
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