"Love and Diane"
a film directed by Jennifer Dworkin
reviewed by Mike Lee
Jennifer Dworkin's prize-winning documentary is an honest and touching portrayal of three generations of a family that, to be sadly blunt, live in a place two steps beyond redemption. Without a real sense of obtrusiveness, the cameras follow Diane Hazzard, a recovering crack addict who has, through blind faith and an indefatigable will struggles to rebuild the family her own drug addiction destroyed. As the documentary unfolds one realizes that Hazzard's determination is never enough, however-there is just too much damage wrought already. Not to say that Dworkin's subjects inexorably face a baleful fate, it is just that these people do not in inhabit a Touched by an Angel pop culture television environment where problem resolution serves as a pre-commercial interruption. Also, Dworkin avoids the exploitative trap of jaded voyeurism; while Dworkin in uncompromising and intensely detailed in documenting the daily lives of her subjects, she succeeds achieving the viewer to have an unstinting fondness for them. You root for Hazzard throughout, even though one realizes early on that small victories become sandwiched between stark, brutal defeats.
This is a story told in almost epic terms: At the beginning a new generation has arrived, Donyaeh, the son of Diane's daughter Love, an emotionally disturbed young woman, embittered over her own earlier abandonment by Diane years before during the latter's addiction. This conflict continues throughout the film, particularly when Diane must decide about what to do when her daughter's emotional outbursts physically threaten Donyaeh. The risky choices she makes on a daily basis are heartbreaking, when one knows the outcome of these decisions means separation and possible homelessness.
This film is pure storytelling. At times Love and Diane are so dramatically riveting one forgets that it is a documentary. It does not judge, either. Everyone is all too human: from the often-deflated, though sympathetic social service bureaucrats to the struggling Hazards. Dworkin achieves, with her sensitive eye and judgment, a documentary that precisely manages to portray one family's personal struggle against poverty and depravation without resorting to sentimental strings or strident speeches. All Diane Hazzard likely wanted in this documentary was telling it like it truly is. With that in mind, Jennifer Dworkin therefore then has accomplished a rare project of creative genius.