REVIEW: Mondays at Racine [2012]

Score: 8/10 | ★ ★ ★

Rating: NR | Runtime: 39 minutes | Release Date: 2012 (USA)
Director(s): Cynthia Wade

“There’s a beauty that can come out”

Mondays at Racine is a very worthwhile story touching upon the myriad points on life’s spectrum by branching off from its simple subject towards the much more personal and powerful realities facing cancer patients across the world. Oscar-winning—her documentary short Freeheld—director Cynthia Wade probably began her journey into Rachel Delmolfetto and her sister Cynthia Sansone‘s lives without any clue as to what she would discover next. The film may retain a title speaking towards the compassionate service these siblings give to a community of women on Long Island, but its spotlight on two specific ladies is what makes it so memorable.

The amazingly selfless idea of opening Racine Salon de Beauté & Spa once a month to women dealing with hair loss from chemotherapy introduced Wade to the lives of so many struggling to cope with their changing identities. Rachel and Cynthia’s own mother was diagnosed years before and it was watching her attempts to live through the chaos that sparked this concept and has helped so many like her adjust. They will hold their customers’ hands while the hair comes off, lead talking sessions for everyone to speak their mind and help one another prevail, and truly go out of their way to make this one side effect of their therapy become more manageable.

Their story is newsworthy and hearing them admit what they do is to a certain point selfish because of karmic retribution and the knowledge they don’t have it quite so bad after all, Wade brilliantly takes Mondays at Racine away from the beauty parlor and into the homes of its clients. Many women and their spouses pop up throughout the film in candid interview snippets that help explain what it is to live with cancer, but it’s Linda Hart and Cambria Russell who allow the sort of unfettered access that could seem overly obtrusive considering where their lives go in one short year. The resulting bravery and the willingness to show it for others to understand and not be so afraid is wonderful.

The movie could easily have fallen prey to self-promotion—Racine’s storefront sign is shown quite a bit. Thankfully the transparency of Linda and Cambria allows it to be more. We’re talking about the physical pain of chemotherapy and the emotional strain it takes when mastectomies and shaved heads infiltrate lives in larger ways than just aesthetically. We see hard choices made, watch as a little boy’s future hangs in the balance of his would-be adoptive mother’s mortality, and witness the exception that proves the rule in terms of life expectancy statistics. It’s a film full of tears and yet never shies away from the abundance of optimism possible if you can surround yourself with those who love and cherish you no matter what.

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