A Little Heartbeat
For Fred and Karen Schouten (Bruce Greenwood, Michele Greene) the news that she is pregnant is most welcome, having been trying for a while with no success. Gordon and Alice Holc (Terry OQuinn, Ann Jillian) are also happy as whilst they already have one child they learn that at 35 Alice is pregnant again. But both couples receive devastating news as Fred and Karen are informed that their yet born baby has a brain defect and has no chance of surviving whilst Alice and Gordon learn that their baby has a heart defect and also has little chance of surviving. Whilst having never been done before Fred and Karen agree to allow their baby's heart to be used in a transplant leading to a mad dash for the organ, as well as Alice and Gordon, to get to Dr. Leonard Bailey (Rip Torn), a transplant expert who is the best shot of this transplant surgery being a success.
I don't remember seeing it mentioned at the start of "Heart of a Child" but I believe this is one of those made for TV movies based on a true story, that of the first ever heart transplant involving a baby. Now of course that means that we are undoubtedly in emotional territory and you only need to read that short synopsis to understand that "Heart of a Child" is going to be a weepy as both sets of parents are presented not only with the likelihood of their babies dying but also some exceptionally tough choices.
Surprisingly for a movie with such an emotional true story "Heart of a Child" didn't end up as emotional as it could have been and in many ways that is praise as this could quite easily have become an over the top emotional mess. Instead what we get is a controlled drama with some powerful scenes especially when Fred and Karen are told that if their baby isn't dead when it is born it will die within a few days as it cannot survive. It makes it a touching movie rather than an onslaught of emotional manipulation.
It is not just emotional drama which fills "Heart of a Child" as it also has some suspense thrown in for good measure as when the decision to transplant the heart is taken we get the mad dash by plane where storms threaten to stop the procedure. I guess this really happened but it almost feels out of place, a bit of manufactured drama added to prolong and embellish the story. Where "Heart of a Child" works best is not when it is trying to be dramatic but showing what these parents went through, the unbelievably hard decisions they had to make from considering termination to having to face the fact they will be arranging a funeral for the child they haven't yet had.
Despite the added drama "Heart of a Child" works and the performances throughout are of a high calibre with Bruce Greenwood really delivering the disarray of the situation as he tries to support his wife Karen but is struggling to deal with his own pain. In fact whilst Ann Jillian is the star of "Heart of a Child", and delivers a strong performance, it is Bruce Greenwood and Michele Greene who for me bring the real pain of the situation to their performances.
What this all boils down to is that "Heart of a Child" is an emotional and touching true story movie which does a very good job of presenting the tough situations which both sets of parents found themselves facing.