Passion Fish (1992) - Plot Summary Poster



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  • May-Alice Culhane was a successful soap opera star, but a car accident has left her bound to a wheelchair. She returns to her now-empty family home in the bayous of Louisiana which she had eagerly left years before. She drinks heavily and vents her bitterness on the succession of nurses who are hired to take care of her and immediately quit because she is so unbearable. Chantelle is the latest of these nurses, and May-Alice is told that Chantelle is the last nurse she'll get. Chantelle for reasons of her own, is also in a position where she badly needs the job to work out. The movie focuses on how these two women become friends and help each other heal emotionally.

  • Soap actress May-Alice Culhane is paralyzed from the waist down in an accident. She returns to her old home in Louisiana, where she proceeds to drink quite steadily and to drive away five personal attendants in the first twenty minutes of the movie. Then she meets with Chantelle, whose stubbornness matches her own -- if only because Chantelle, herself a recovering cocaine addict, cannot afford to lose this job. Their mutual dislike gradually develops into an armed truce as the two women deal with their own problems and with each others'.

  • After an accident leaves her a paraplegic, a former soap opera star struggles to recover both emotionally and mentally, until she meets her newest nurse, who has struggles of her own.

    Will S


The synopsis below may give away important plot points.


  • May-Alice Culhane (Mary McDonnell), a soap opera actress, is injured in a Manhattan street accident which leaves her paralyzed from the waist down. Bitter and self-pitying, she returns to her long-empty Louisiana home. There she spends her days and nights lying on a couch, watching TV and drinking wine. She runs through several live-in nurses, none of whom she gets along with.

    Finally the agency sends a new nurse, sullen and cold Chantelle (Alfre Woodard). Chantelle soon makes it clear she won't put up with May-Alice's drinking and laziness, and they have frequent arguments. Through all this a series of visitors to the house provide insights into May-Alice's life, while May-Alice learns from a vaguely menacing stranger that Chantelle is a recovering cocaine addict.

    May-Alice and Chantelle finally begin to warm to each other. May-Alice quits drinking, follows Chantelle's physical therapy regime, and takes up photography. Chantelle begins an affair with a local horse trainer, while May-Alice enjoys the increasing attentions of a married handyman she knew as a teenager.

    Eventually May-Alice finds out that Chantelle has a young daughter, Denita, who lives in Chicago with her legal guardian, Chantelle's father. He brings Denita down for a visit and, happy with Chantelle's progress, says he will send Denita down for the summer if Chantelle shows she can stick with the job. May-Alice, in the meantime, has been offered her New York job back, but the role is an insulting exploitation of her disability, and she turns it down. In the end, Chantelle and May-Alice decide they need each other more than they realized, and agree to continue their living arrangement.

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