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First Do No Harm (1997) (TVM)

First Do No Harm TVM poster.jpg

This isn’t really a TV movie outlet but it’s La Streep and Jim Abrahams directing (quite a change from Airplane!), so, like, whatever. Those weird TV channels sometimes yield gems. And in the bigger sphere of Meryl Streep’s career we know that the 90s were a difficult decade – she started with Postcards from the Edge, did an action movie (River Wild) in the middle and ended with Music of the Heart, for Wes Craven of all people. L is for Lost.   The ‘disease of the week’ TVM has long been a staple of US TV schedules but it was really something for the grande dame of cinema to stoop so low. This is an epilepsy story of a small boy, the youngest of three working class kids in Kansas, who suddenly drops from a series of grands mals and complicating issues such as the father’s job change meaning no insurance for 6 months means he’s stuck in a public hospital with a doctor determined to put him on a variety of drugs whose interactions cause horrifying side effects. When Mom tries to kidnap him to take him to Johns Hopkins, the world famous hospital in Maryland where the ketogenic diet is recommended as an alternative to brain surgery and potential retardation, they threaten to get social services in. This all sounds rather like the British case two years ago when a sick child’s parents wanted him out of the public health system to give him a better chance elsewhere and the parents were arrested in Spain. NHS = Nanny State. In reality, a qualified doctor friend of the family here accompanied her and the child went on what appears to be the Atkin’s Diet for 3 years and has been well ever since. The boy is played by a child actor called Seth Adkins, suitably enough, while Pop is the mighty Fred Ward who I met walking along the street in Dublin outside my office 20 years ago. The bigger question for me is what has happened to the writer, Ann Beckett? She started out on Little House on the Prairie, did a half dozen episodes of watercooler seventies show Rich Man, Poor Man and hasn’t been heard of since.

About elainelennon

An occasional movie-watching diary.

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