Two Tearjerkers in Two Days

After bawling my eyes out watching “In America,” the sweet-but-not-saccharine film about an modern-day immigrant family from Ireland, I vowed to not cry for another movie this year. I’m just not the type to go all weepy, no matter how wrenching the story. I’m not that easily manipulated. …

Well, so much for that plan. One whole day later and, again, I’m squeezing a few drops for yet another film, this time HBO’s “Something the Lord Made.”

I decided to watch the movie partly out of work-related curiosity. My employer, Penn Press, published a book which the movie was loosely based on, and we got a check for $60,000 for the film rights. It originally came out with the hefty title, Pioneering Research in Surgical Shock and Cardiovascular Surgery. We later retitled it Partners of the Heart, but, wouldn’t you know it, HBO credited the former, not-so-inviting version. Truth be told, we were incredibly lucky to get as much money as we did, considering that the book is a totally impenetrable read.

The movie is about the two men who pioneered open-heart surgery, an unlikely pairing of a white doctor and his black janitor, who, it turns out, is every bit as gifted a surgeon as the doctor. Ultimately, the two men figure out a way to operate on “blue babies” and they cure the condition, but more compelling than the overt medical drama is the undertone of racism that haunts the doctors in their research, but never completely derails their quest. The movie was a tearjerker, yes, but one that’s completely free of sappiness and stereotypes. The actors are superb, especially Alan Rickman (who plays the surgeon, Alfred Blalock) and Mos Def (who plays his partner and Penn Press author, Vivien Thomas). It was easily one of the best films I’ve seen this year. For a second opinion, read the overwhelmingly positive NY Times review.