The Brooke and Mother Bond

Lacey Chabert in The Brooke Ellison Story (2004)

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 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 Reeve's understanding he is able to do it justice. The only negativity is that with "The Brooke Ellison Story" being an inspirational made for TV movie it falls into certain traps of overly sentimental scenes and swells of emotional music which are occasionally too much.

So as already mentioned the name Brooke Ellison meant nothing to me before I watched "The Brooke Ellison Story" but her story is a powerful one. That story takes us from childhood and the morning of the day she was involved in a life changing car accident through to her graduating from Harvard. Along the way we get to see the difficulties that both Brooke and her family faced from financial to emotional and most importantly the sacrifice of her mother who became her 24 - 7 care giver, going with her to Harvard when she is accepted. But we also see how this also leads to issues not just in a teen having to deal with teen problems with their mother so close but also what this meant for other members of the family as they struggle to deal with the change.

Vanessa Marano in The Brooke Ellison Story (2004)

So for me there are two very distinct things going on in "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 as that should be Brooke and her mother's story, is a powerful one because we watch how thanks to her mum and her dad never giving up hope and 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 Brooke's story is basically 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 problems. 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 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.

The only negativity to all this is that "The Brooke Ellison Story" is a made for TV movie and like so many made for TV movies sometimes is less than subtle. Scenes where friends and work colleagues rally around the family are done in an excruciatingly cheesy way and are made worse by the less and subtle use of emotional music. It is in truth my only negative from one surprisingly good movie.

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 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 a powerful movie.

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