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6 out of 7 people found the following review useful:

Emotionally challenging drama of a forging mother-son relationship

9/10
Author: Andreas Niedermayer (leeds1@gmx.at) from Klagenfurt, Austria
2 February 2006

Joshua's Heart is written by Susan Cuscuna and directed by Micheal Pressman (two-time Emmy Award Winner for Picket Fences). It is an engrossing family drama starring Melissa Gilbert-Brinkman, Tim Matheson (The West Wing) and Lisa Eilbacher (An Officer and a Gentleman) and featuring an amazingly assured performance by child actor Matthew Lawrence (Mrs. Doubtfire).

Claudia Casara (Gilbert) is an advertising executive and children's book author. When she meets Tom (Matheson) it is love at first sight. Tom's 10-year-old son Joshua (Lawrence) is used to new female faces and his father's changing relationships and expects Claudia to be another short-term acquaintance. When Claudia moves in she slowly gets to know this lonely little boy aching to love someone and to have a thoughtful parent around. She is the only one who spots Joshua's deep unhappiness behind the confident facade he presents to the world. The two of them forge an intense bond and Claudia realizes that she has started to love Joshua as if he were her own son. When Tom starts to meet another woman and with Joshua's real mother Kit (Eilbacher) making an appearance and claiming her rights for her son, Claudia is faced with a heart rending dilemma. Should she fight to keep Joshua in her life, or should she let go of him and risk breaking his heart along with her own.

As with most outstanding dramas the story and the cast make up the basic quality. The story of Joshua's Heart is the story of love, the struggle to find happiness and to be together with those you honestly care for. It is also the story of responsibility and trust in a world that has become increasingly artificial and negligent of genuine moral virtues. Through her relationship with Tom and her growing affection towards Joshua, Claudia finds out about the real miracles of life and her own dreams and emotions. The story is simple but very emotional and drags the audience very much into the ensuing struggles of Joshua and Claudia. It is a drama that addresses the issue of how much you are allowed to love someone you are not related to, how unaffected this love can be and how much you gain from such a relationship.

At the outset Claudia is very much focused on her career. Joshua somehow manages to open her eyes and to make it into her heart with his enchanting personality. Her relationship with Tom – despite apparently passionate and sincere – never gains this kind of emotional depth Claudia expects. Tom lies to her and takes advantage of her naivety. Thus Claudia projects her desire to have someone to care for and to love her unaffectedly into Joshua, a 10-year-old boy. While you might question her means and her obsession to have Joshua as the embodiment of her romantic yearnings, her intentions are genuine and not be challenged. She wants to protect him and to be the kind of mother he never had.

Joshua's response to her love is the main issue and the real emotional highlight of the movie. He is the one who carries the burden of being left alone with babysitters and having no-one to talk to. Matthew Lawrence is very assured and plays his character in an outstandingly persuasive manner. He never makes his relationship with Claudia appear corny or phony. He portrays his character's sensibility and the emotional struggle with shining decency that grants his performance with substantial quality. His emotional implications are due to the fact that he has never had a real mother to care for him, and hence the amount of love and trust he feels towards Claudia is authentic and perfectly understandable.

Kit, Joshua's real mother, is portrayed as a person who has the best intentions, but who was too inexperienced and too naive to live up to the responsibilities of being a parent. Now as she comes back she tries very hard to establish a real bond towards Joshua, who is eventually willing to give her a second chance and let her into his life again.

The bond between Claudia and Joshua is very strong. Both their lives have changed forever, and this makes the movie so pervasive. It is the story of how people can enrich each other's lives and how much they can grow from a relationship of mutual understanding and affection. Joshua experiences the warmth within a large family when he comes to Claudia's clan on Christmas, and Claudia finally finds out what she really wants in life and that Joshua's story also makes a good children's book. Life is about experiences and finding your true self in the course of them. Although painful and emotionally challenging, the relationship between Claudia and Joshua affirms this premise of life. The performances by Matthew Lawrence and Melissa Gilbert make Joshua's Heart a warm, tender and instructive tale of how painful love can be, but also of how much we can gain.

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5 out of 8 people found the following review useful:

Excellent and well acted

Author: Nicholas Rhodes from Ile-de-France / Paris Region, France
21 August 2003

Melissa Gilbert is, oh, so cute as usual and this film really is a pleasure to watch. All concerned acted very well, picture quality is fine and the whole story is very touching. Highly recommendable. I have enjoyed all the films I have seen with this actress. She has something sincere in her look which comes over very well on the screen and makes her performances very believable. It may not be everybody's cup of tea but those of us who like this kind of story will certainly not be disappointed.

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2 out of 4 people found the following review useful:

thankfully not from a baboon

Author: petershelleyau from Sydney, Australia
8 November 2002

Melissa Gilbert-Brinkman plays Claudia Casara, an advertising illustrator who has an affair with architect Tom Chapman (Tim Matheson). Claudia forms a special bond with Tom's son Joshua (Matthew Lawrence), and after she and Tom split up, Joshua asks Claudia to adopt him. Apart from Tom's objections, things are complicated by the re-emergence of Joshua's mother Kit (Lisa Eilbacher), who wants a second chance with Joshua.

G-B's red hair features constant accessories here, the most notable being long scarves tied to the back. She looks funny when her hair is thrown over her face in a dodgem car crash, poses in a photo booth with Joshua, and does heavy breathing before her last meeting with him. The children's book she has written is her tribute to Joshua, where she names the main character after him and uses a self-portrait he has done for the cover.

The teleplay by Susan Cuscana has both Claudia and Joshua have an obscure obsession with the Fred Coe 1965 film A Thousand Clowns. Tom acting as a neglectful father isn't a surprise, nor is his breakup with Claudia, when he spouts lines like `You're lit from the inside', and calls her `baby'. However Claudia, who tells Tom she is `75% wishes and dreams' also reveals her interest in Joshua to be psychologically unsound, where she projects her romantic longings onto a 10 year old child. No wonder she can say something like `I stayed too long at the fair'.

Director Michael Pressman focuses the dilemma more on Joshua than Claudia, and Eilbacher gets to present a vulnerability that Gilbert lacks. Claudia at least has her mother (Debra Mooney), a huge Italian family, gay friend Nick (Jack Blessing), and a published book. All Kit has is cigarettes.

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