To Live For (1999) - movie review on The Movie Scene

To Live For (1999)   3/53/53/53/53/5


Scott Bairstow and Nancy Travis in To Live For (1999) (aka: My Last Love)

One Last Love

Susan Morton (Nancy Travis - A Walk in My Shoes) has cancer and after various failed treatments accepts that she is going to die. It is why she leaves Chicago with her daughter Carson (Jamie Renée Smith) to move back closer to her parents and the sea. She also arranges that Carson's former step-father would take her in, but with his situation changing makes life difficult especially for Carson who is struggling to deal with the fact that her mother is dying. And then there is an unexpected complication when Susan meets busboy Michael (Scott Bairstow - There Was a Little Boy) who despite his own emotional troubles with Susan dying becomes part of her and Carson's life.

It almost seems wrong to use the word beautiful when discussing a movie which features the subject of cancer but that is what "To Live For" is. It is this beautiful, emotional drama focussing on a handful of characters in the very unusual situation of dealing with death combined with relationships and a new romantic one. What is surprising is that considering "To Live For" is a made for TV movie it nicely walks that fine line of being too emotional and saccharine, never over stepping the mark and becoming too much.

Nancy Travis and Jamie Renée Smith in To Live For (1999) (aka: My Last Love)

So as mentioned the storyline to "To Live For" is this drama surrounding Susan and the fact she is dying from cancer but the real focus is on the people. We get to see various sides starting with Susan who in many ways has the most stereotypical storyline as she has to deal with knowing she wont be around to experience seeing her daughter grow up. It is a beautifully portrayed character by Nancy Travis because she never over blows the emotion or makes it too melodramatic keeping it pleasantly real. It is the same with her relationship with Michael as she initially doesn't want any commitment but ends up falling for him.

That brings me to Michael and, like Travis, Scott Bairstow does a nice job of bringing the younger character to life, making him fun and charming but also sensitive. It makes him appealing but also someone who due to some thing in his past has his own road blocks to negotiate when it comes to committing to a relationship with someone who is dying. In truth it is the occasional directional choice which lessens his character as his boyish, fun loving charms are over played but then these moments, a shirtless beach scene make you smile.

But "To Live For" also has a wonderful performance from Jamie Renée Smith as Carson; sharp as knife with some typical teenage sarcasm and attitude but also with this emotional undercurrent. In truth it is the strength of the writing of the characters which makes them so good because each of them has various layers. Even Susan's pushy parents played by Holland Taylor and James Karen are good with nice depth which comes to the fore when it comes to what she chooses for Carson when her time is up.

What this all boils down to is that "To Live For" is a much better TV movie than the norm which is down to some brilliant character writing but also equally good performances which draws you in to the people and the situation.


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