• Golden Globe Awards

Notes for My Son (Argentina)

Carlos Sorin’s Notes for My Son details in almost documentary fashion the last days of a terminal cancer patient who has been told that her treatments are no longer effective. Unlike recent Hollywood movies on the subject, it does not sugarcoat the experience but also it keeps the viewer from turning away thanks to the remarkable performance of Valeria Bertuccelli who plays the victim, Maria Valdez.
The opening suggests that this is a true story based on a book that was handwritten by an Argentinian woman intended only for her three-year-old son, but when published after her death it became a best seller. Sorin himself said that his film is based on a real event, but it is fiction.
The release of the film has prompted a baffling controversy suggesting that it is derived not from the bestseller published in Argentina, but one published in the U.S. inspired by the experiences of Heather McManamy of Wisconsin who died from breast cancer in 2015.  When she found out that her life was coming to an end, she started writing letters to friends to help them come to terms with her death, and in particular, letters to her daughter Brianna who was only four years old at the time. These letters were intended to serve as a guiding light for Brianna for her first day of school, her sixteenth birthday, her wedding day, and also for days when she might just be missing her mother.
After her death, Heather’s husband compiled all her letters into a book that was posthumously published under the title, Cards for Brianna: A Mom’s Messages of Living, Laughing, and Loving as Time Is Running Out. Strangely the film does not credit either book as source material.
The Maria Vasquez we come to admire in Sorin’s film is an uncommonly loving human being with a vast circle of friends who continue to visit her throughout her ordeal. She also has a loving husband and an adorable child who has inherited his mother’s gifts, particularly her intelligence. Maybe all this is somewhat romanticized, but the film doesn’t spare us her endless bouts of diarrhea and vomiting, the pain, the depression, the decision when to end it all.  
Sorin has directed nine previous films, the most famous being A King and His Movie, but this is the one that should place him among the forefront of Hispanic directors.
Valeria Bertucelli, who lost weight and shaved her head to play the role, is uncompromising. Those who attended Sundance two years ago might remember her from The Queen of Fear which she wrote, co-directed and starred in, but for which didn’t get much attention. Notes for My Son should change that.