Take One: Passion Fish (1992)
After dismissing a string of unsuitable nurses, recently paralysed TV actress May-Alice (Mary McDonnell) opts to hire Alfre Woodard’s mysterious Chantelle in John Sayles’ Bayou drama Passion Fish. Chantelle enters the film out of nowhere, off a bus and into May-Alice’s house. She doesn’t let on any overt details about her life, but there’s a hint of intrigue about her, something amiss and troubling. It's evident in the slightly trembling nervous manner in which Chantelle goes about her new position. McDonnell’s icy actress will gradually thaw as a result of her dependency, but not before she attempts to make life miserable for Chantelle – who’s having none of it.
Chantelle is headstrong and defiant and she doesn’t suffer defeat readily. Woodard embodies these traits, but never adheres to over-familiar actorly tics in the way she conveys them. When wheeling May-Alice outside for exercise, Chantelle leaves her to fend for herself with a sarcastic motivational response.
Mary Alice: I want to go back inside!...It’s uphill!
Chantelle: So's life!"
Instead of merely showing us McDonnell’s abandoned reaction, Director John Sayles shows us Woodard's nurse pensively thinking in a swing chair. Chantelle is not the concrete-hard carer she likes to make everyone think she is. [more on Passionfish and two more takes after the jump]