Movies about families and terminal illnesses are, more often than not, maudlin affairs, undermined by a filmmaker's need to wring every last bit of pathos out of an already brutal emotional experience. In life, comedy and tragedy exist in startling proximity to one another, often within the same situation -- not knowing whether to laugh or cry, being unsure of the proper emotional response, can sneak up on you, generally when you least expect it.
Writer/director Steve Stockman's Two Weeks is a touching, often wrenching comedy-drama that's a stunning showcase for Sally Field, who's enjoying something of a late-career renaissance with the TV show "Brothers & Sisters" on ABC. Her work here as Bergman family matriarch Anita is her best in at least a decade; it's a fierce, funny and wonderfully alive performance that makes what could've been a fairly pedestrian film something approaching magical.
The four Bergman siblings -- filmmaker Keith (Ben Chaplin), power broker Barry (Thomas Cavanagh), well-meaning sister Emily (Julianne Nicholson) and youngest child Matthew (Glenn Howerton) -- have returned home to their mother's house in North Carolina to be with her as she slowly succumbs to cancer. As they make final plans and help Anita tidy up loose ends, the four siblings and their stepfather Jim (James Murtaugh) laugh, fight and attempt to come to grips with the mother and wife they love dying before their eyes.
By turns hilarious and shattering, Stockman's profane, varnish-free and often graphic screenplay allows for a more realistic feel that's absent in other films about cancer. There's a lived-in quality to Two Weeks that, coupled with Field's brilliant performance, elevates the film into something of a minor masterpiece.
Take your pick: a 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer is one side of this flipper disc and a 1.33:1 fullscreen transfer is on the other. For this review, I only watched the widescreen version -- a crisp, clean transfer of recently filmed material that looks sharp and vivid throughout with nary a defect to be spotted.
The only audio option here is a Dolby Digital 5.1 track that doesn't get many chances to shine -- Two Weeks is a dialogue-driven affair with the occasional bit of score every now and again. The conversations are clear and free from any distortion or drop-out. Optional English, Spanish and French subtitles are also onboard.
The supplements are slight, but they mix filmmaking and the grieving process in near equal measure. Writer/director Stockman sits for an engaging, informative commentary track with Dr. Ira Byock, a professor at Dartmouth Medical School; the filmmaker reveals that the film is based on a "true-ish" story about Stockman's mother passing away in 1997. This revelation explains much about the film's veracity. A quartet of deleted scenes -- playable separately or all together for an aggregate of four minutes, 14 seconds in fullscreen -- is here, as are trailers for Once and The Family Stone, a 23 minute, 40 second featurette titled "Learning to Live Through Dying" (annoyingly found only on the fullscreen side of the disc) and a group discussion guide rounding things out.
By turns hilarious and shattering, Stockman's profane, varnish-free and often graphic screenplay allows for a more realistic feel that's absent in other films about cancer. There's a lived-in quality to Two Weeks that, coupled with Sally Field's brilliant performance, elevates the film into something of a minor masterpiece. Highly recommended.