Three persons are presented in a parallel montage. An Englishman in his garden preparing for his trip to Ukraine. Henry Marsh is the surgeon, as is the man he is to visit in Kiev, Igor Kurilets, and the patient to be operated for a brain tumour, Marian Dolishny. Between these three the drama lies. Will the two doctors succeed to do a succesful operation on the man from the provincial town, where the people help him by collecting money for his operation? But this is just the dramatic engine of this unique, touching film about an outstanding, humble and humourous English doctor, who wants to help other people. As simple as that. A film that is rich in layers and beautiful in its humanistic approach and message. And sometimes tough to watch, Marian being awake during the whole operation!
The film is also about a friendship between two men from different cultural and materialistic backgrounds. A friendship that started around the end of the USSR and the start for Ukraine to enter market economy. Igor has a private clinic, dreams about getting a hospital, and Henry transports equipment to him and works for free. When Henry arrives to Kiev, he goes directly to the clinic where people queue up to have his opinion on their brain tumours – to be operated or a lost case? It is very often the latter, and the two doctors discuss the ethical question. Should the truth be told, should all hope be taken away?
At the end of this classically built documentary that includes carefully placed music by Nick Cave & Warren Ellis, the two doctors take a trip to visit the family of a girl, who was taken by Henry to England to get an operation done that failed. What can I say but thank the director for keeping the film in a non-sensational balance full of respect for his characters and the theme of life and death.
There is a great website for the film with references to clips. And how to buy it.