Eva Markvoort, the subject of “65_RedRoses,” passed away on March 27, 2010, killed by the cystic fibrosis she’d battled all her life. It’s not a secret — she chronicled her illness and her escalating health problems on her blog, right up to her death at age 25. “65_RedRoses,” a Canadian documentary from director Philip Lyall and Nimisha Mukerji getting its broadcast premiere tonight at 9pm on OWN, doesn’t alert you to this fact at the start, but it’s nice to know if only to brace yourself, as Eva’s warm and brave and really wants to live.
“65_RedRoses” is half personal doc, half chronicle of a disease. Eva’s the heart of the film, and her online posts and videos take a central part in the story as time goes on, but Lyall and Mukerji also pay a visit to two of the friends she made in the online cystic fibrosis community in which she was active — people suffering from the disorder can’t spend real-world time together because they could infect each other with superbugs.
The film bounces from British Columbia, where Eva lives, to Girard, PA and Portland, OR to check in on “spirit_of_kina” and “megmucus,” two more pretty, punky young women dealing with CF. Kina has gotten a double lung transplant, for which Eva’s also waiting, but her body’s rejecting the new organs. Meg is in a kind of denial, smoking and refusing to take her meds, having essentially accepted that her life’s going to be short.
While the film sometimes struggles with how to visually represent its online community and communications — animation serves, somewhat awkwardly, to bridge the gap — it’s harrowing when showing day-to-day deaings with CF, the wracking coughing fits through which Eva fights, her mother hovering nearby unable to help, the diminished lung capacity, the long periods of waiting for her pager to alert her to the fact that they’ve found a compatible donor for her.
But “65_RedRoses” is fundamentally uplifting despite its subject matter, because its protagonist is determined to appreciate every bit of life she’s been given. When surgery offers her a chance at improved health, she embraces it, dyes her hair red (her favorite color, and her addition to her online handle, inspired by a children’s malapropism when trying to say the name of the disease) and joins a dragon boat racing team filled with other transplant survivors. And when things take a turn for the worse, she’s disappointed, but handles things with a grace that’s inspiring if difficult to watch.