One True Thing | Chicago Reader

One True Thing

Ellen (Renee Zellweger) is an ambitious journalist whose cutthroat reputation suggests to the small-town authorities investigating the death of her terminally ill mother (Meryl Streep) that she might have hastened the process so she could get on with her career. In flashback we see her pressured by her father (William Hurt), a reputable writer and literature professor, into leaving her job in Manhattan to care for her mother, who wears frilly clothes and enjoys baking and decorating Christmas trees while Ellen dresses in black and reads a lot—presumably the reason they've never gotten along. Her relationship with her father isn't so good either—she reveres him but rarely gets more than the occasional backhanded compliment on her writing. The vicarious catharsis offered by this adaptation of Anna Quindlen's novel is as efficient as that of any family-affected-by-illness drama—its limited agenda is to remind us that physical and emotional suffering lead to revelations, because a sense of mortality puts things in perspective the way nothing else can. Written by Karen Croner and directed by Carl Franklin (1998).

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