Saturday, June 15, 2019

A good doctor gets a pretty good documentary in Bernadette Wegenstein's THE GOOD BREAST

During the first few minutes of watching THE GOOD BREAST, the 2016 documentary directed and co-written by Bernadette Wegenstein, TrustMovies was convinced that any woman having to deal with breast cancer should only be lucky enough to have a doctor as good, as careful and as scientific as the one we first meet here: Dr. Lauren Schnaper. That feeling never fully dissipated but it did lessen somewhat as the documentary drew on.

This was due to the inordinate amount of time this 90-minute movie manages to spend on the subject of Saint Agatha, the patron saint of breast cancer. (More about all this later.)

Ms Wegenstein, shown at right, initially introduces us to Dr. Schnaper and her idea that the medical profession allows and, in fact, encourages many more mastectomies than are actually necessary, often by instilling such fear into the patient that full-out and immediate breast removal seems the only answer.

You will most likely have heard this before, but it bears repeating, especially when offered up in such a quiet, non-emotional, and backed-by-scientific-fact explanation as given by Schnaper. The film then wastes no time before introducing us to a quartet of women undergoing treatment for breast cancer.

These range from a very active-positive gal (shown above, right) who, by the time the film concludes, has turned into a mass of tears and tics, fears and needs, and who actually wants something quite different from the thing she appeared to most desire when the film began. It's sad in so many ways.

The saddest of these women is the one with the most faith in god -- who is so certain that "he" means her to live. She and her family are put through the proverbial mill, as that faith slowly weakens and finally vanishes. The four women provide a kind of balance, as well as a somewhat typical array of diagnoses and outcomes that can be expected here.

And yet, back and back and back again we go to that patron saint and all the many different artworks (one of which is shown above) that portray her and her awfully graphic and literally tortured experience at the hands of these "men of faith." At one point we even take a trip to Italy, below, with Schnaper and her nurse to visit and witness an entire festival devoted to Saint Agatha. Granted, the art exposes the kind of nasty, male-entitled horror to which the women of the time were subjected, so, yes, there's a feminist angle here.

But we finally spend so much time on this less-important byway that the sad saint keeps threatening to become the full-out subject here. And she's not. One wonders if this growing imbalance was more due to Dr. Schnaper or to Ms Wegenstein? Or both? Whichever, poor Saint Agatha finally does these docs  -- the film and the physician -- no favors whatsoever.

Otherwise, The Good Breast offers an interesting, empathetic look at four women facing a particularly difficult challenge -- one that goes close to what many women feel is the very heart of their femininity. The film does point out that not all women treat their breasts as something so sacrosanct. But plenty do, and the result can be as difficult as it is confounding. Just as it is for us men, when we're told our penis and/or scrotum, thanks to prostate or testicular cancer, will no longer be functioning sexually.

From Icarus Films Home Video, The Good Breast will be available on DVD this coming Tuesday, June 18 -- for purchase and rental (the latter also via Amazon or iTunes).

No comments: