Words like "epic," "tragic," and even "cosmic" are bandied about rather casually when we talk about documentaries, but all three can be applied to Jennifer Dworkin's <i>Love and Diane</i>. The story of recovering Brooklyn crack addict Diane Hazzard and her children—who, when we meet them, have been reunited by New York City social services after years of foster care—this film is epic in its scope and cosmic in its implications: The problems of one black mother and her troubled children are a metaphor for how society works, or doesn't; questions of Diane's recovery, redemption, and salvation are not just her themes, but ours.
The idea of tragedy, in an almost classic sense, arises via the relationship between Diane and her oldest daughter, Love, who seems destined by some divinely authored script to repeat the missteps of her mother. And yet the triumph of the human spirit—another cliché, perhaps, but perfectly appropriate here—is the payoff for the five years Dworkin spent following Diane and her family, and the concise and emotionally concentrated two-plus hours she allows us to spend with them. It is also the payoff for us, the audience, because within Dworkin's exhaustively constructed film is the essence of what documentary can be, and all too often isn't.
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