Without exception, each of this year's Oscar-nominated documentary shorts is excellent. But Mondays at Racine, despite costing me wads of tissues and embarrassing rivulets of mascara, is my hands-down favorite.
Racine Salon de Beaute & Spa is not in Wisconsin, as my Cheesehead husband and I had hoped, but an Islip, New York emporium dedicated to "tranquility, wellness, and beauty". On the third Monday of every month, owners and sisters Rachel Demolfetto and Cynthia Sansone open the doors to cancer patients, offering compassion, community, and free cosmetology services.
The salon serves more as a launching pad than vehicle to the film, which ultimately focuses on Racine's patrons. Two in particular are featured: Cambria Russell, a young mother just starting treatment as the film commences; and Linda Hart, whose breast cancer was diagnosed in 1994, eroding her body as well as her marriage over the years.
In the words of filmmaker Cynthia Wade, "These women have a lot of courage." That courage is transformative, not only within the group, but translated from the screen. Mondays at Racine was, for me, the supreme documentary experience—making me a slightly different person leaving the theater than the one who had come in.
Caveat: To watch even the three-minute trailer below, tissues are not optional.