One night in 1910, a little girl is born during a snowstorm in the English countryside. The umbilical cord is wrapped around the baby's neck; she turns blue and gasps for life. The doctor can't make it through the snow, and the little girl dies.
That same little girl is born on another version of that night in 1910, but this time the doctor makes it through the storm, delivers the baby and stays for breakfast.
David Sheff wrote a book in 2008 that became a kind of landmark. Beautiful Boy was a painful, personal story of the battle he tried to fight with and alongside his son, Nic, who was addicted to methamphetamines. The book became an international best-seller and made David Sheff one of the country's most prominent voices on addiction — not as a doctor, an addict or an academic expert, but as a father.
How do you play a character who's been depicted more than nearly any other character in all of Western civilization?
That's the challenge currently facing Irish actress Fiona Shaw, who in the past has played such well-known fictional characters as Harry Potter's Petunia Dursley and Marnie Stonebrook on HBO's True Blood -- not to mention titanic classical roles from Euripides' Medea to Shakespeare's Richard II.
The year is 1915. A beautiful young woman bicycling through sun-dappled woods passes under an effigy of a German soldier and seems entirely unfazed. World War I is raging elsewhere in Europe, but here on the French Riviera life is serene.
The cyclist, Andree, is on her way to pose for an elderly Impressionist painter, Pierre-Auguste Renoir (Michel Bouquet), whom she somewhat startles by claiming to be an artist herself.