Michael Ignatieff’s Booker Prize nominated novel, Scar Tissue, is the story of two middle-aged brothers whose lives are torn apart when their mother is diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. The mother’s ailment is really a launching-off point for an exploration of memory, science, genetics and identity. Filled with wonderful images and characters, and themes of great resonance, I was eager to adapt the novel for television.
But this wasn’t an easy movie to finance, and in the end, with the help of CBC, Shaftesbury Films decided to do it as an extremely low budget television movie, shot in the studio with three cameras. Peter Moss, a versatile director with a strong theatre background (we worked together for many years when he ran Toronto’s Young People’s Theatre) decided to approach it like a stage play. With an extraordinary cast that included the brilliant Roberta Maxwell, Shawn Doyle and Aidan Devine, it turned out to be a remarkable experience and a very compelling film.
Gemini finalist: Best Screenplay.
Adapted by screenwriter Dennis Foon from Michael Ignatieff’s 1993 Booker Prize-nominated novel, Scar Tissue is a searching and poignant account of a mother’s descent into Alzheimer’s and the ramifications for two brothers who are forced to confront their mother’s demise, their relationship with each other and their family legacy.
CBC Television will broadcast this powerful two-hour drama Monday, Nov. 11, at 8 p.m. (2002)
Roberta Maxwell (Dead Man Walking) stars as Mora, an accomplished artist who inexplicably gave up painting while still in her prime.Now, 20 years later, her forgetfulness and increasingly bizarre behaviour has everyone worried.Her son Nick (Aidan Devine, Net Worth), a doctor, is certain she is succumbing to the same disease that destroyed her mother and grandmother. Her younger son Daniel, (Shawn Doyle, Frequency), a film professor, has always been the closest to her and clings to the hope that Nick is wrong.
Mora is diagnosed as having Alzheimer’s Disease, the brain disorder that causes early senility and memory loss. As her condition rapidly deteriorates, her care takes a huge physical and emotional toll on her and her family. Daniel and Nick become so engrossed with her condition, they are blind to the fact their father, Alex (Paul Hecht), is suffering his own decline.
Daniel’s fixation on his mother and his own terrible fear of getting the disease leads him into a crippling depression and an emotional estrangement from his wife and child. He questions whether the disease has been passed on to him and, in turn, to his own son. Did his mother’s fear of Alzheimer’s cause her to abandon her art 20 years earlier? Has that same fear taken hold of Daniel, causing him to stop making films? Daniel is desperate to find the answers. But he must race against the clock, as he feels his mother slipping through his fingers.
“Scar Tissue is an emotionally charged story about something that affects one in 10 Canadians over 65, and their families and friends,” says producer Christina Jennings (also known for Torso, The Joanne Kilbourn Mysteries, External Affairs). Directed by Peter Moss, the two-hour movie was filmed using an innovative multi-high-definition camera shoot. Produced by Jan Peter Meyboom and Christina Jennings, Scar Tissue is a production of Shaftesbury Films, in association with the CBC.
—The Journal Pioneer
One of CBC’s best dramas of the season, Scar Tissue is a modest, low-key production, adapted by Dennis Foon from Michael Ignatieff’s 1993 Booker Prize-nominated novel, that offers a compelling story, flawless cast and sensitive direction in its depiction of a family devastated by the mother’s (Roberta Maxwell) Alzheimer’s disease (8 p.m. on 5).
The story unfolds mainly through the perspective of favoured younger son Daniel (brilliantly played by Shawn Doyle), a filmmaker who becomes as obsessed with his mother Mora’s illness as he is with his own dread of inheriting the disease.
While his doctor brother (Aiden Devine) copes by burying himself in clinical analyses, Daniel attempts to capture his mother’s essence before it’s completely gone by documenting her life on film. In the process he hopes to find answers to the fears that plagued them all for decades.
—By Bonnie Malleck, The Record