Marvin’s Room (1996) Review


Sisters Bessie and Lee had a big falling out twenty years earlier when Bessie cares for their father after he had a stroke. She has been diagnosed with cancer and must contact her sister to get tested along with the nephews she has never met.


Bessie had been caring for her father Marvin and Aunt Ruth for the past twenty years which certainly has not been easy and that pretty much became her life as she was left alone to do it. When she is diagnosed with leukaemia and needs a bone marrow transplant she must contact Lee to have a test, family are often the best options for this. Plus with her two nephews Hank and Charlie this gives three people to test.

Lee could not cope with having to care for her father and Aunt so left Bessie as the pair fell out. Not having any contact in the twenty years that followed. Surprisingly Lee does not really hesitate in going to help, although she has to get her troublesome son Hank out of the mental institution he was placed in after burning down the house!

Marvin’s Room is a look into how families are torn apart but then can be built back together. How these relationships can help during the worst times and that you really can push each other to the limits in the best possible way. It is difficult at times to decide who you feel sorry for the most between Bessie and Lee but we do get a rather lovely yet heartbreaking scene towards the end of the film. It certainly does not go in the direction that you may expect.

The two different parts of the story being Bessie’s illness and Hank’s issues never naturally fit together. It made it a little difficult at times, because it seemed that she could control and talk to Hank very easily which I am guessing would not really be the case considering they had never actually met each other before.

It has a truly fantastic cast, Meryl Streep, Diane Keaton and Leonardo DiCaprio in the leading roles is something that you cannot help enjoy. Although at times the actual film and script is just a little TV movie like instead of what it should be, that was something that I found rather disappointing. Not forgetting Robert De Niro’s role as Dr Wally which should have been so much bigger in my opinion. Gwen Verdon and Hal Scardino were both very good in the supporting roles.

I guess the way to really sum up this film is that it was just ok, nothing really more than that. Given the talent in the cast something that will probably leave you feeling a little bit let down and disappointed. Something I am guessing at the time was not really that big of an issue.

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