Decoding Annie Parker review


Kathy LaTour blog image

On Tuesday in Dallas we saw the second screening of Decoding Annie Parker, the movie by first-time director Steven Bernstein about the search for the BRCA 1 and 2 genetic mutations that increase the risk of breast cancer for those who carry them.It's an important movie, and those of us who know women who carry the BRCA gene want it to be in every theater in the country. I don't know that this will be a reality, but I wish it were. Right now the film is making the rounds of film festivals and then it will be shown in conjunction with nonprofits such as FORCE (Facing our Risk of Cancer Empowered).The movie follows the lives of two women, researcher Mary-Claire King,PhD, and Toronto resident Annie Parker, who has watched breast cancer take her mother, sister and various other women in the family. We see way more of Annie's life than we need to so we'll understand she is a wacky, fun young woman who wants to live before the inevitable happens and she is diagnosed with breast cancer. She survives to continue her work on trying to understand the DNA that we never quite understand. At the same time we get glimpses of Mary-Claire King over a period of years as she gathers her team and discusses the next question that they must answer to ultimately bring it all together. We see time pass with the kind of computers they use and the length of everyone's hair until finally the gene is found. In the meantime Annie has been diagnosed with breast cancer and then ovarian cancers, and we see a scene of chemotherapy that is more than realistic for anyone who has been there. In quizzing some folks in the theater who didn't know about BRCA, I asked if they understood the whole issue about the gene and how to find it, and, while they got the general idea, they really didn't understand what King was looking for and what she found. Overall, it's an important movie, but it needs to spend less time on Annie and more explaining what King is doing and why. The highlight of the night was the presence of Annie Parker, who is touring with the movie to talk about the gene. To see her and hear her energy around women getting information really sent me out with new energy. Bernstein was also present and I give him a big thank you for his commitment to the project.

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