The Brooke and Mother Bond

Lacey Chabert in The Brooke Ellison Story (2004)

Having been told by her sister to get the bus home after school 11 year old Brooke Ellison (Vanessa Marano, Lacey Chabert) was swayed by her friends and walked with them. Unfortunately there was a traffic accident on the way home and Brooke ended up rushed to hospital in a coma having suffered not only a head injury but her neck which has left her paralysed from the neck down. Whilst her father, Ed (John Slattery - Dirty Dancing: Havana Nights), dealt with keeping the family running whilst also all the bureaucratic red tape and expense Brooke's mother, Jean (Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio - Witness Protection), never left her side. Despite the pessimism of those in the medical professions which they meet Ed and Jean refuse to give up on their daughter and when she comes out of her coma they not only fight to get her home but fight to allow her to return to school with Jean being her carer. And much to their surprise not only does Brooke prove herself she ends up being invited to go to Harvard.

Whilst the name Brooke Ellison meant nothing to me before watching "The Brooke Ellison Story" I was fully aware of director Christopher Reeve and his incredible story and in many ways there was no one better than Reeve to direct this movie. Because of Reeve's own experiences with being paralyzed, from going through treatment to the daily risks and how it affects not only the individual but also the family unit he is able to bring this side of Brooke Ellison's story to life, highlighting things from the financial stress to the demands on loved ones. That doesn't take anything away from Brooke Ellison's own story which is an inspiration story in itself but because of Christopher Reeve's understanding he is able to do it justice.

Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio in The Brooke Ellison Story (2004)

So for me there are two very distinct sides to "The Brooke Ellison Story"; there is Brooke's own inspirational story and then there is the look at life when someone suffers a life changing injury. Now Brooke's story, or in reality that should be Brooke and her mother Jean's story, is a powerful one because we watch how thanks to Jean and Ed never giving up hope, alongside Brooke's own determination, being paralysed didn't prevent her from doing stuff. We get to watch the emotional strains and stresses but we see how whilst being paralysed meant thinking about things in a different way it didn't mean life was over.

Now a big part of "The Brooke Ellison Story" is a look at the issues which come when a loved one is paralysed and this is where director Christopher Reeve's own experiences help bring this story to life. Now there are too many great, insider moments to mention but scenes where a doctor and nurse talk negatively in front of young Brooke or when a care giver refuses to be hopeful highlights some of those issues. We also see how it puts a strain on the family as a whole from financial strains to Brooke's sister struggling with their mum having to devote all her time to supporting Brooke. Basically from start to finish "The Brooke Ellison Story" feels like an insider look at what being paralyzed means and the endless list of issues which come with it especially when it is a teen daughter having to rely on their mother 24 - 7 but it makes you realize so much whilst also feeling inspired by Brooke and her family.

As for the acting well both Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio and John Slattery are brilliant as Brooke's parents especially Mastrantonio who in the scenes she shares with Lacey Chabert as the teenage Brooke are especially insightful into the difficulties of a mum and teen daughter living in each other's pockets. But whilst Lacey Chabert is impressive as the teen Brooke some of the most insightful scenes come from Vanessa Marano as the younger Brooke and that is thanks to some great writing and a simple but touching performance by the then young Marano.

What this all boils down to is that "The Brooke Ellison Story" not only tells the inspiring story of Brooke Ellison but at the same time gives the audience an insight into the difficulties which appear when a loved one becomes paralyzed. Yes at times it is typically a TV movie but that doesn't detract from it also being an inspirational movie.

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