Every Act of Life (2018) [FilmOut San Diego 2018]

This documentary tells of the life and work of playwright Terrence McNally, who during his 60 years of career wrote many plays including Ragtime and Master Class. The film also tell of the LGBT rights movement, his life through addiction, recovery, love, and a desire to be more, to work more, to be his best possible at all those things.

In this documentary by writer/director Jeff Kaufman, McNally’s life is explored and shown as is through photos, interviews, and other sources. The man’s life is shown without sugar-coating, with all the truth there to be seen in bright stage lights. His work is explored in a manner that associates it with periods of his life mixed with interview with the people involved in some of the plays and musicals. The interviews are shot in a direct manner and the interviewees are clearly comfortable talking about the man, good or bad. One thing that is made very clear here is that they all have tremendous respect for the man they speak of. This respect is clear throughout the film and in how everything is filmed and put together.

The cast of interviewees is varied and random, from loved ones to cast members to colleagues, all are given room to speak openly and honestly. The most interesting people speaking are going to vary per viewer, but Anthony Heald, Tyne Daly, F. Murray Abraham, Christine Baranski, Audra Moreno, Rita Moreno, and Nathan Lane are definitely interesting and fascinating to watch speak of McNally. Each speaks freely and in a manner to give a glimpse, however small might it be, of the writer they know and love. His life is explored in a fair amount of detail and what comes to the forefront from all of it are his passion for writing and how militant he was about being out. His life is clear and open, just like the interviews given.

The film cinematography team composed of Jordan Black, Autumn Eakin, and Anthony Lucido works as a group like a charm. Their work is cohesive throughout the film, something not often seen with that many people behind the camera. This shows that the film has a very clear direction and that each of them knew what they were doing at all times. The images the captured are edited here by Asher Bingham who brings them cohesively in a storytelling way, in a way that helps the viewer follow and keep track of everything.

Every Act of Life is a beautiful film about a man who made things happens, who still writes for the stage, and whose work is going to be studied for decades to come. Here the interviews make the film, but the mood of it gives it a warm feeling while remaining very New York City. The film has a feeling, a personality of its own, making it a very easy to watch documentary even for those who may not be particularly Broadway-biased. The subject is well explored and has his own time in the spotlight amongst the numerous interviews with an impressive list of Broadway, theater, music, and film stars.