120 Movie Review: The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks (HBO)

We had a last minute change of plans this weekend when The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks was released on HBO. We review the movie and give some background on Henrietta Lacks and her famous, immortal HeLa cells.

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Nichole got a notification on her phone Saturday night that The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks had just been released on HBO. She had been eagerly anticipating this movie for a little while, so the princesses changed their plans and decided to watch and review this movie for this week’s episode. Sadly, the movie failed to live up to their expectations.

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks was lacking, well, Henrietta. The movie is filmed from a white gaze, that of journalist Rebecca Skloot who authored the book by the same name, and centers largely on Deborah Lacks, Henrietta’s daughter, played by Oprah Winfrey. The narrative is jumpy and confusing, many threads are introduced but never followed up on, and Henrietta’s story is still untold. Played by Renee Elise Goldsberry in just a few brief flashbacks, Henrietta Lacks is shown as a saintly cipher, her complexity and humanity still a mystery to us.

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