It’s interesting to see if a feature film can match an episode of Law & Order. Henrietta Lacks, who’s cancer cells have changed medicine for over half a century, had a “inspired by true life” story on the basic cable staple based on the facts surrounding the sordid history of Lacks’ cells and the way they were used without her consent. It was fairly interesting and told the story in forty minutes using pseudonyms that was fairly close to the real-life events.
Which is why the film version covering the real-life story, The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, is so disappointing.
The film follows Lacks’ daughter (Oprah Winfrey) and a journalist (Rose Byrne) tracking down the story of her mother and her cells. What follows is an exploration of exploitation as her daughter finds out just how profound her mother’s cancer cells really were … and how the family and Ms. Lacks never were compensated or even asked for consent.
The novel is fairly powerful and effective at telling the story. Condensing this to slightly over 90 minutes takes out a lot of the story’s genuine emotional power. It’s a nice primer into the saga but if you’re genuinely curious about this you should grab the novel and spend an afternoon reading. Oprah Winfrey’s film is a Lifetime style adaptation with an HBO pedigree, nothing more.
A fairly substantive EPK piece about the history of Lacks and her cell line is included.
HBO presents The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks. Written and directed by George C Wolfe based off “The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks” by Rebecca Skloot. Starring Oprah Winfrey, Rose Byrne. Run Time: 93 minutes. Not Rated. Released on: 9.5.17
Tags: Oprah Winfrey, Rose Byrne, The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks