21 May 2009

First do no Harm (starring Meryl Streep, Fred Ward and Seth Adkins)


'First Do No Harm' is another film we were given, after a relative found it free in a Saturday paper. I am so glad she did, because this is a wonderful movie, based on a true story. In my opinion it is well worth getting hold of, if at all possible.

It stars Meryl Streep as Lori, a contented, if slightly harassed mother with three children. Out of the blue, the youngest child, Robbie (Seth Adkins), is diagnosed with a serious form of epilepsy. Everything has to go on hold for the family as he goes into hospital for tests, and then undergoes increasingly unpleasant forms of treatment.

The first drugs Robbie is given turn him from a likeable, friendly child into a hyperactive violent screamer. His parents are told that when the first drugs taken do not help the condition, there is increasingly less chance that any future ones will make any difference.

Since this takes place in America, the family get into increasingly difficult financial straits as they have to deal with Robbie’s problems, due to some small print on their medical insurance. They seem to be at the mercy of the doctors, who propose drastic surgery on Robbie’s skull as his seizures increase and his behaviour becomes worse and worse.

Then Lori discovers that an unusual diet has helped a significant number of children with severe epilepsy. The doctors insist that it would not help, and that to take Robbie to a clinic to try it out would threaten his life. So the family have to make some very difficult decisions on his behalf….


I was totally captivated by this DVD, as were the other people who watched it with me. Meryl Streep is always excellent; she is able, it seems, to play almost any role to perfection. Seth Adkins as Robbie was also extremely good and beilevable. It was well-made and interesting as well as somewhat educational, and felt like a story rather than a documentary.

The one single thing that spoiled the film was an appalling and screechy rendition of the song ‘Somewhere over the Rainbow’; not just once but twice in the film. It made us put our hands over our ears and wished we could turn the sound off.

The UK rating for this is PG, which I would suggest is correct; younger children might find some of the medical and violent parts disturbing although others would not be worried by it. The US has a more cautious PG-13 rating.

Despite that one problem, I would recommend this film it highly.

Review copyright Sue's DVD Reviews

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