It might sound like the title of a schmaltzy TV movie, but "Be Here Now (The Andy Whitfield Story)" is an extraordinarily moving, deeply personal, filmed diary of late "Spartacus" star Andy Whitfield's battle with cancer.
The Welsh actor had been in remission from early stage non-Hodgkin lymphoma, but just prior to starting the second season of the Starz sword-and-sandal series, a routine insurance scan revealed a subset of cancerous cells that forced him to put his career on hold as he underwent an aggressive but ultimately unsuccessful new round of treatments.
That resulting physical and emotional journey undertaken by the soft-spoken Whitfield and his fiercely supportive wife, Vashti — from hopeful defiance to philosophical acceptance — is touchingly tracked by American filmmaker Lilibet Foster.
Traveling from the sunny Australian home they shared with their two young children to India and New Zealand as Whitfield sought out alternative treatments to help combat the brutal effects of those intensive rounds of chemotherapy, Foster and her remarkably unobtrusive hand-held camera present an unflinching portrait of a couple struggling to form a united front against mounting adversity.
Tracing the progression of the disease as it takes a devastating physical toll on the once-strapping leading man, the film, which took home the audience award for best documentary feature at last year's Los Angeles Film Festival, never stoops to cheap, easy sentiment.
In the Whitfields' dogged determination to be present in the present rather than to live in fear of the future, "Be Here Now" (the title is taken from the credo that Andy and Vashti had tattooed on their forearms) is as much a tender love story as it is a depiction of understated, real-life heroism in the face of an all-too-common tragedy.