HBO is no stranger to incredible films based on true stories. In fact, they may well have been a pioneer of them on the small screen. The quality of their films rivals anything on the big screen and often attracts the same quality talent as well. One of their new films now on Blu-ray and DVD is The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, which is perhaps one of the most important stories in medical history.
Rebecca Skloot (Rose Byrne) is a journalist who spent a decade researching the incredible story of Henrietta Lacks (Renée Elise Goldsberry), an African-American woman who, after having five children, was diagnosed and died from cancer. After her death, her cancerous cells were harvested without her consent, which created the first immortal human cell line and led to unprecedented medical breakthroughs that changed the face of medicine forever. Along with Lacks daughter Deborah (Oprah Winfrey), Rebecca attempts to trace the course of events and try to uncover why the family was never told about Henrietta’s incredible contribution to human history and to find a way to get Henrietta the recognition she so greatly deserved.
The story told in The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks is indeed one of the most incredible stories I have ever heard and although the film could have benefitted from another 30 minutes to an hour of backstory, it is well executed, brilliantly acted, especially by Winfrey, and still manages to get all the most important facts revealed while keeping the story flowing well and entertaining. It also shows the astounding lack of ethics the medical community had (and has) and how companies, industries and government can all disregard protocol if it means the easiest and most profitable way to get to a goal. The story is disheartening in this respect but the story of Henrietta and her family is thoroughly engaging and inspiring. The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks is very highly recommended.