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‘This is what cancer looks like’: facing illness with humour, honesty and an iPhone

When the UK director and artist Victoria Mapplebeck was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2017, she began using her iPhone to chronicle her experience as a patient and single mother. Constructed from text messages, voicemails, snippets from video diaries, intimate conversations with her teenage son, Jimmy, and shots of the dreary parade of doctor’s visits, her film The Waiting Room is a remarkably warm and honest account of the ups and downs of cancer treatment. At the core of the story are Mapplebeck’s candour and her relationship with Jimmy, entwined threads that allow the film to incorporate such an eclectic range of media and turn mundane moments into something deeply moving. Without any veneer of Pollyannaish cheerleading or facile self-pity, Mapplebeck’s invitation into the intimacy of her experience offers no easy answers. It does, however, encourage compassion and communication as somehow essential to pulling through.

5 August 2019

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