As a young boy, Ben Carson struggled at school. He had trouble reading and found it difficult to apply himself to his studies. After getting frustrated with her sons’ failure in academics, she sets a number of rules to help promote opportunities to learn for both Ben and his brother Curtis. As he started to apply himself, he finally started to achieve his potential. His success in grade school led to his opportunity to study at Yale, where he met his eventual wife. Finding a way to shoot to the top of his class, he get admitted to Johns Hopkins to study neurosurgery. Now as a renowned brain surgeon, he is faced with a seemingly impossible challenge. A young couple from Germany have a set of twins who are conjoined at the head. Ben struggles to figure out how to save them both and has to use all of his knowledge and abilities to achieve success.
Starring: Cuba Gooding Jr (Benjamin Carson), Kimberly Elise (Sonya Carson), Aunjanue Ellis (Candy Carson), Gus Hoffman (teenage Ben), Jaishon Fisher (young Ben), Angela Dawe (Augusta Rausch), Scott Stangland (Peter Rausch), Gregory Dockery II (teenage Curtis), Tajh Bellow (young Curtis)
While Cuba Gooding Jr portrays his character with a sense of calm and depth, Kimberly Elise exhibits a strong showing with her personal pain during the first half of the film and resilience throughout the entire story. She shares a certain sense of wisdom necessary for the dramatic element of the earlier life of Ben Carson. For the younger versions of Ben, Fisher gives the more innocent presentation while Hoffman provides the rebellious, teenage aggression that serves as a turning point in this life.
Thomas Carter starts the film with a brief preview of the culmination of Ben’s life events, but take the focus back to his life as a child and his struggles growing up. Ben Carson lived with his mother and brother, with his father out of the picture for quite some time. With a new school came the realization that he was challenged in his understanding of learning. As he improved, his appreciation for all subject areas expanded. The one problem that seemed to follow him though was overt racism. His classmates were vicious about his early learning challenges. One of his teachers called his positive performance a failure on the part of the rest of the white students, diminishing his achievements in the classroom. By the time he started to mature as a teenager, he experienced a newfound sense of rage that nearly cost him his opportunity to press on.
By the time he reached college, he had found himself in a place where his confidence in his abilities was strong, but the racism had not diminished. Even though he was accepted for a residency program at Johns Hopkins, his attending had a lack of faith in him and the head nurse thought that he was an orderly when they first met. He was still able to push forward and made the most of a potentially career-ending situation, getting recognition for his quick and intelligent thinking. The focus of the film shifted to showing the story of the separation of the conjoined twins and the frustration of never having performed such an extensive procedure. While the representation in the film was a little hokey in the symbolism with the faucet, the fact that the story was true made up for it.
This made-for-TV movie is deserving of attention as it shows the struggles of a young boy growing up in a harsh environment and rising to the status of the most renowned neurosurgeon in the world.
Dan’s Rating: 3.5/5