Typically solid performances by Meryl Streep and Fred Ward as the parents of a child who suffers more from medical treatment than from his illness (epilepsy) don't distinguish this made-for-TV movie from dozens of similar ones.
The Reimullers are an average midwestern family headed by father Dave (Fred Ward), a truck driver, and mother Lori (Meryl Streep). When 4-year-old son Robbie (Seth Adkins) starts having seizures, doctors diagnose epilepsy and prescribe drug treatment. As Robbie fails to respond, they try different
drugs, many of which produce side effects that must be treated by other drugs. Dave finds that his health insurance has lapsed. As Robbie's medical bills drain the family savings, Dave begins accepting hazardous assignments and longer hours. Lori grows stressed at Robbie's seemingly inevitable
degeneration. Desperate, she does some research of her own and reads about the ketogenic diet, an alternate form of therapy that uses no drugs. She wants to take Robbie to Johns Hopkins Hospital for the treatment, but is blocked by Dr. Melanie Abbasac (Allison Janney), who won't release him to
travel. After her attempt to remove Robbie from the hospital is foiled, Lori learns that it is possible for the hospital to take her child away if it tells a court that she is unfit to care for him. With the help of an ex-doctor who believes in alternate therapy, the Reimullers get Robbie to Johns
Hopkins, where he is put on the ketogenic diet. He responds to the treatment and has no more seizures.
Producer-director Jim Abrahams (AIRPLANE!, WELCOME HOME, ROXY CARMICHAEL) obviously knows this subject well: his son Charlie (who appears in the film) had similar problems with drug treatments for epilepsy before responding to the ketogenic diet. And one can hardly blame Abrahams for his obvious
bitterness toward the medical profession. But both elements have somewhat clouded his sense of drama. "...first do no harm" (as the title appears onscreen) plays at times like an infomercial for ketogenic therapy, at times like a harangue against doctors, and does both with a marked lack of
finesse. (The tone is set at the beginning, as mother Lori reads Robbie the story of "The Emperor's New Clothes.") It's an important topic that would have been better addressed with more depth rather than so much self-righteous melodrama. (Adult situations.)
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- Released: 1997
- Rating: NR
- Review: Typically solid performances by Meryl Streep and Fred Ward as the parents of a child who suffers more from medical treatment than from his illness (epilepsy) don't distinguish this made-for-TV movie from dozens of similar ones. The Reimullers are an avera… (more)