A consistently intelligent (or at least bright), coherently constructed comedy that is on occasion a rather pointed critique of the American education system in the…
"Beauty in life may come from makeup, or what have you, but in death, you have to fall back on character."
The old woman has just come from attending a funeral and knows her own is not far in the future. She is speaking with the young nurse who visits her daily. The actress, Sheila Florance, could be describing herself. She is bone thin, her arms like sticks, her face deeply lined. She was once a great beauty, but now what she has left is character.
Paul Cox's "A Woman's Tale" (1991) tells the honest, brave and profoundly touching story of the last days of a 78-year-old woman named Martha (Florance), who lives with her memories and treasured possessions in a few rooms in a Melbourne rental complex and defiantly guards her independence. She knows she is dying and has shrugged off the last course of cancer treatment. She is in pain, but doesn't complain, and spends her days taking care of others: Billy, her senile neighbor, surrounded by his memories of the war; Miss Inchley, a sweet old lady as innocent as Martha is knowing; and even, in a way, her nurse Anna (Gosia Dobrowolska).
The movie looks calmly and with love at the fact that life ends. It provides not one of those sentimental Hollywood deaths, poetic and composed, but a portrait of a woman who faces her decline with fierce pride. Florance herself was dying when the movie was made, knew it and died a few days after winning an Australian Academy Award as best actress in 1991.