The author and “Sleepless in Seattle” writer/director is remembered by her son and other loved ones in “Everything is Copy,” an affectionate tribute airing on HBO starting March 21.

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“It is very powerful to be both loved and feared,” says Jacob Bernstein in “Everything Is Copy,” his affectionate tribute to his remarkable mother, writer/filmmaker Nora Ephron. In the film, which airs on HBO beginning March 21, an array of Ephron’s friends and relations (many every bit as famous as she), tell Bernstein what they thought of Nora: They were in awe of her and eagerly sought her approval. (It’s quite something to see Steven Spielberg, arguably the most powerful man in Hollywood, earnestly explaining how much he wanted her to laugh at his jokes.)

And, unquestionably, they adored her. “Everything Is Copy” doesn’t pretend to be an unbiased portrait. Bernstein, a journalist, is clearly a loving son still processing the unexpected loss of his mother to cancer in 2012. Ephron emerges as the smartest of smart cookies: a survivor of a glamorous but tough childhood (her parents, both Hollywood screenwriters, were alcoholics); a bright young journalist who found her tart, funny voice in a New York golden era of magazines and newspapers; a brilliant observer of human nature who mined that gift for a career in screenwriting and directing (“Sleepless in Seattle,” “You’ve Got Mail,” “Julie & Julia”); a devoted mother and treasured if lovably dictatorial friend.

Her adult life wasn’t all sunshine: An early first marriage ended quickly; a second marriage to journalist Carl Bernstein combusted after his infidelity, providing fodder for Ephron’s hilarious roman-a-clef novel “Heartburn.” (“If I tell the story,” Ephron’s alter ego says in the novel, “I can make you laugh, and I would rather have you laugh at me than feel sorry for me.”) Both Ephron’s ex-husbands appear in the film. Bernstein, interviewed by his son, seems to have found some peace, decades after the couple’s lengthy, contentious, headline-making divorce. (Their settlement agreement included, among many other points, specific details about how Ephron could depict their marriage in a screenplay.)

Movie Review ★★★½  

‘Everything Is Copy — Nora Ephron: Scripted and Unscripted,’ a documentary directed by Jacob Bernstein. 90 minutes. Premieres on HBO 6 p.m. March 21.

Ephron finally found happiness with her third husband, author Nicholas Pileggi, who doesn’t appear in “Everything Is Copy”; perhaps he couldn’t bear it.

Ephron’s friends, years after her death, still seem to be struggling with the loss; many tell stories about a delightful last meal with Nora, which they realized only later was a goodbye. Bernstein and the others wonder why a woman so famously candid in her writing would have been so secretive about her illness. “I think it was a story she couldn’t control,” notes a friend.

Though many knew Ephron best for her movies, what lingers after “Everything Is Copy” are the words. The film frequently pauses for excerpts from her written works (readers include Meg Ryan, Reese Witherspoon, Lena Dunham and Rita Wilson); they sparkle as if freshly minted yesterday. If this film inspires viewers to rush out to find copies of Ephron’s collected essays, or “Heartburn,” it’ll be an especially fitting legacy. Meryl Streep, adding her voice of wisdom to the movie’s mix, summed Ephron up in just a few affectionate words: “She understood love.”