Read a teaching scene about love.
Forty-year-old Bessie (Diane Keaton) is diagnosed as having leukemia. She has spent 20 years in Florida taking care of her bedridden father (Hume Cronyn) and his elderly and ailing sister (Gwen Verdon). When Dr. Wally (Robert De Niro) tells Bessie that her best chance for survival is to find a relative whose bone marrow matches her own, she calls her sister Lee (Meryl Streep) who lives in Ohio. They haven't seen each other for 20 years.
Lee is an angry single parent whose oldest son Hank (Leonardo DiCaprio) is in a mental institution for having burnt down their house and half the neighborhood. He just can't relate to his self-absorbed mother. Lee's other son Charlie (Hal Scardino) avoids family problems by hiding behind books.
Marvin's Room has been adapted for the screen by the late Scott McPherson from his 1991 stage play. In his debut as director, Jerry Zaks manages to bring out the comic vitality in this zany story about death, aging parents, reconciliation, and the healing power of selfless love. The key to the sisters' reunion is Bessie's ability to empathetically reach out to her rebellious nephew Hank. While others might consider her to be nothing more than a lonely spinster, Bessie admits to Lee, "I've been lucky to have had so much love in my life."
This emotionally affecting drama makes the point that the love we give to others is the only thing that makes life worth living. The selfish Lee eventually gets the message and in a wonderful scene she shares her newly developed skill as a beautician by transforming Bessie's wig into a stylish thing of beauty. Marvin's Room is filled with magic moments like this one. As Protestant theologian Paul Tillich once stated, "In every moment of genuine love, we are dwelling in God and God in us."