Ana Willis (Queen Latifah) is a woman who made a lot of bad choices before she turned her life around. Heavily into crack with her then boyfriend (and later husband) Slick (Wendell Pierce), Ana had a daughter that went to live with her mother (Anna Deavere Smith). Ana and Slick, due to their drug abusing ways, are also HIV positive. Ana currently has another daughter with Slick and she's completely turned her life around. Still ill and utilizing a cane to get around, she has become an activist in the community for safe sex and HIV testing. The story of this film follows Ana coming to terms with her relationship to her daughter, her mother and her husband. In addition to this, Ana also tries to help a young, homosexual addict named Omari (Evan Ross) get clean. The fact that Omari is good friends with her daughter isn't lost on Ana. This could easily be her that she's trying to help.

Normally, a film of this nature would show us Ana getting to the point where she got her life together. What makes Life Support so interesting is that we see that she is a woman who has gotten her act together. She is a great mom, she has strong commitments and beliefs and she practices what she preaches. In fact, it almost becomes hard to believe that this is a true story simply because of how different somebody would have to become in order to kick drugs and other habits. Also, since this is an HBO movie it doesn't need to have an uplifting ending. Sure, Ana finds some peace and she works things out a bit within her family, but one can tell that she has many struggles still ahead. The road to recovery never ends it seems.

Queen Latifah is quite good in this role. She still has the sass that we have come to know her for, but there is a vulnerability that he hasn't really shown on screen before. The fact that we can see her having to reassess her thoughts and ideas simply by looking at the expression on her face, really shows us how far she has come since she appeared in a cameo in Spike Lee's Jungle Fever. Queen Latifah seems to have gotten lost amidst this role and she is backed up by a very solid cast of performers.

Director Nelson George has put this film together in a very restrained way. He has shot documentary-like scenes of Ana in a discussion group with other women who have HIV. They talk about their problems, their partners, and what it's like having to live with something that people still don't seem to understand. These segments play really nicely into Life Support as they move the story along but don't call attention to the fact that that is what they are doing. This movie feels very real but at the same time it also has a solid structure. None of this gets in the way of the story or the reality of the characters.

While it's subject matter might be unsettling for some Life Support should be considered mandatory viewing for all.

Life Support is currently airing on HBO.

Evan Jacobs