Australia, 1987, 105 minutes, Colour.
Kerry Mc Guire, Nick Tate.
Directed by Stephen Wallace.
Olive is the portrait of a South African actress working in Australia and the last months of her life as she becomes a victim of cancer. The film was written by her husband, playwright and actor, Anthony Wheeler. It is a heartfelt portrait of Olive, of himself and their relationship, especially in the final year. With the focus an cancer, it is a powerful portrait for the television audience, enabling then to experience something of what the cancer victim suffers. Paul Cox looked at cancer in women in his documentary drama, Handle With Care. The story of jockey Bob Champion was portrayed quite vividly, especially his battle with cancer, in Champions.
Kerry Mc Guire gives a powerful performance as Olive, a born actress, a woman of sensitivity and whims, of emotional depth, of a woman struggling with a terminal illness and her relationships, her faith. Nick Tate is also very good as her husband, Anthony Wheeler. The film was directed by Stephen Wallace, a director of interesting and moving files including Love Letters from Teralba Road, Stir, The Mail Order Bride, For Love Alone.
1. A portrait of Olive? Her character, situations, illness and Death? A portrait of her husband?
2. The impact of the file as a telemovie? For Australian audiences? World-wide audiences? The true experience of Olive and of dying? And of Anthony Wheeler coping with his wife's illness and death?
3. A true story, a story of the '80s, the personal investment in Wheeler's writing? Inviting the audience to understand the person? to understand the experience of cancer?
4. Olive and Anthony: the South African background, plays, their experience in South Africa, the rehearsal scene from one of Athol Fuggard's plays, their stay in Australia, Olive's longings for South Africa, and her memories?
5. The strength of the relationship? A second marriage? The children? Reunion after a separation? Their return to work together? facing reality, the illness, hospital and care, tie strain on the relationship with Olive's wilfulness and impatience, forever demanding, being bossy? Anthony and his devotion, exasperation? The effect on the children?
6. The portrait of Olive: as an actress, her work, her relationship with Anthony, the shower and her suspicions, the visit to the doctor, referring to him as God? Her need for information, interviews, going into hospital, her tantrums about tea, the decisions about operations, the spread of the cancer, the variety of opinions, the reaction of the staff, her behaviour in hospital, the ironic comments of fellow patients, the visits of Anthony and her children, the variety of moods? Her belief in healing and her wanting Anthony to continually use his hands to heal? The therapy? Going home, ability and inability to manage? Being bossy, being sore? Hesitating about the mastectomy, her needing to have the operation, the psychology of the mastectomy? The scar, Anthony Using it? The children and their reaction? Her growing weaker, staying away, going out slopping and needing the taxi, the visiting nurse and her help, fading away, going into coma, a long coma, Anthony's presence, her dying? The ordinary obituary, her courage, the nature of illness? its hold on a person's life? Olive as an actress, assertive?
7. Anthony Wheeler: a self-portrait, acting, together with Olive again, the family, his writing, quips, his dealing with Olive's illness, the visits to the hospital and the demands that they made, his emotions, phone calls and waiting, talking with doctors? Helping Olive, making decisions? The friends, the party? Frustrations? The burdens of housework, keeping an eye on Olive? Companionship? His being worn out? Her going into coma, his being with her as she died? His role at the funeral?
8. The sketch of the doctors, their treatment of patients, giving of information? The nurse and healing with patients? Therapy? the sister visiting at home?
9. The sketch of the family, the children and their life in, Australia? Growing up, their relationship with their parents? The visits to the hospital? The death and the funeral?
11. The range of friends? Visiting, going to the hospital, the phone calls? Olive's reliance on them, their giving support?
11. The need for films like this to inform audiences about cancer, to invite then to understand and empathise with characters? With the victims? With those who care for them?