This movie won three NAACP Image Awards for this Black History Month 2008. Last month it won a Screen Actor's Guild and a Golden Globe Award, both for Best Actress in a TV Movie for singer-turned-actress Queen Latifah, and last year this movie was nominated for two Emmy Awards.
LIFE SUPPORT is the story of how HIV and AIDS have not just infiltrated the black community but also how it has infiltrated the lives of black women and ruined countless numbers of people. It premiered at the 2007 Sundance Film Festival and aired exclusively on HBO before being released on DVD.
Queen Latifah stars as Ana Wallace, a black woman who lives in Brooklyn, who 11 years ago found out she was HIV positive. She was an intravenous drug user and contracted it through her husband who had gotten it through infected needles. Eleven years ago, Ana's life was shattered. She lost custody of her oldest daughter and has to now deal with the fact that she is going to be in a constant fight with death just on the other side.
The film starts 11 years after the fact. Ana has to take her cocktail of drugs. She has to walk with a cane because the virus has seriously affected her feet and legs, but she will not stop walking. You see the determination, the sense of direction and purpose on her face as she takes each step.
Nominated for the Oscar several years ago for Chicago, Queen Latifah shows how empathetic an actress she is. Here she shows such range from heartache to rage to frustration to love.
When Ana lost custody of her child to her mother (played with resolve by Anna Deavere Smith (The Practice and The West Wing)) she was at first very disappointed and angry. But Ana has spent the past 11 years trying to rebuild her life and in many ways seek forgiveness from her mother who is as just as stubborn as Ana.
Ana works at an organization in Brooklyn called Life Support, which mentors people, particularly black women, but it's open to anybody who is suffering due to HIV and AIDS. The center is run by Sandra, a completely empathetic woman played by Emmy-nominated actress Gloria Reuben (ER).
Writer-director Nelson George uses actual black women who are infected with the virus and throws Latifah in the mix with them and simply allows them to speak and to tell their own story. The conversations are captured documentary-style. That along with an amazing free form speech by Latifah, which felt totally improvised yet natural and raw, makes the film ever more endearing.
Wendell Pierce (Ray and The Wire) plays Ana's husband, Slick, who gave her the virus. Despite that, you still see the love between the two, a love that had to first scream out a lot of anger and bitterness. New actress Rachel Nicks plays Ana's eldest daughter Kelly who knows that her mom ruined her life to drugs and is old enough to resent and hate Ana for it.
There is also a great side story involving Evan Ross (ATL and Pride) who plays Amare, a gay teen also infected with the virus and his sister Tonya played by his real-life sister Tracee Ellis Ross who has had enough of her brother's street ways. Both Tracee and Evan are children of famed singer/actress Diana Ross and here Evan Ross proves that he is just as gifted an actor as his mother was.
Five Stars out of Five.
Rated R for adult themes and language.
Running Time: 1hr. and 30 mins.