The Gift of Life (1982)
The Baby Mother
Life is good for Joleen Sutton (Susan Dey - Little Women), she is a mother of two, her husband Dwayne (Paul Le Mat - The Long Shot) runs the local gas station and she works part time in a diner. But then she reads an article on a doctor looking for women to become surrogate mothers and then sees a TV show where a woman who has agreed to be a surrogate is being interviewed. Moved by the idea that even those who are unable to have children should have the opportunity to have children Joleen decides she wants to be a surrogate. But it is a decision which brings her in to conflict with her family and friends especially her parents who disagree with surrogacy. And after falling pregnant thinks become even more complicated when Dr. Quinn (Edward Herrmann - Annie) finds himself in trouble with the law.
These days surrogacy is so widely accepted that when you watch "The Gift of Life", this TV movie from 1982, it is hard to put things in to context when it comes to the attitudes on show. That is now one of the problems when watching "The Gift of Life" as seeing the wide opposition to surrogacy is hard to accept although it is interesting to see how back in the early 80s there was opposition. That opposition from those who think of the legal issues to religious objections are all mentioned as are issues about the bond between a surrogate mother and the baby they carried.
But "The Gift of Life" has another issue and that is that it simply sits on the fence when it comes to the subject. It tries to be fair to all sides so we get to see how some couples who require a surrogate mother really need the help whilst others appear to be doing it for shallow reasons of not wanting the hassle of nine months of pregnancy. But rather than showing the positives and negatives of each side of the surrogacy argument it just represents them without coming to a conclusion or truly siding with one. It makes it not so much a shallow movie but one which certainly could have had a bigger punch than it does by trying to show all sides.
What though helps "The Gift of Life" is Susan Dey who is attractive, kind, easy going and likeable right from the first scene when we meet her. It means that whilst the movie doesn't take sides we do because of her likeability so when the diner she works in starts being boycotted we feel for her as her actions are out of the goodness of her heart, although we are made aware that the money would also help the family. Dey's performance is the strongest in the movie and some of the supporting performances suffer because they are too middle of the road.
What this all boils down to is that "The Gift of Life" is a movie with issues and not just that it is a movie with a storyline specific to another time. But it is entertaining with Susan Dey delivering a charming performance.
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