After polio threatens his political career in the early 1920s, Franklin Delano Roosevelt desperately searches for a cure to his newly acquired disease, hoping to regain the use of his legs. He learns of a promising spa in Warm Springs, Ga., and travels there, only to find it dilapidated. Determined to overcome polio, Roosevelt invests in the spa's revitalization and sets about recovering, aided by the support of his wife and physical therapist. Written by
My wife is a polio survivor, and obviously handicapped, from the disease's last American days in the 1950's. I was a little worried about selecting it for our evening viewing because too often movies about a physical or other handicap tend to fall into a mushy wallow of pity and become insulting. Whatever failings this one has as an historical or biographical document, so ably pointed out by my fellow reviewers, it was clear to us that the real topic was his facing, accepting, and surviving polio and then moving on. It did so realistically and with complete grace. The portrayals of paternalism/pity/revulsion shown the handicapped by many and by Franklin himself were spot-on examples of the well-meaning but hurtful attentions that people carrying many different burdens get handed daily. The polio didn't ultimately define FDR-the man, any more than his hair color did but the movie does a wonderful job showing his transition to that realization, and yet never asks us to feel sorry for him.
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