Making the Grades
Everybody has dreams. For eleven-year-old Brooke Ellison (Vanessa Marano), they are about dancing, starting junior high school, and impressing the boy assigned to a neighboring locker. Then, her life changes suddenly, making impossible the reality of even these simple, commonplace aspirations.
Walking home one fateful day, the young girl is hit by a car, leaving her tiny body broken and bleeding. Utterly helpless, her parents, Jean (Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio) and Ed (John Slattery), listen as the doctor renders his diagnosis and prognosis: a broken arm, a battered skull, a comatose state with no sign of brain activity, a good chance of being paralyzed from the neck down, a better chance of never regaining consciousness.
Faced with this heartbreaking news, the Ellison family refuses to give up hope. Yet, the first flicker of their daughter's eyelids only signals the beginning of a life-long struggle. Besides coming to terms with her quadriplegic state, they are also faced with further risky surgeries, mounting medical expenses and responsibilities to their other children. However, the greatest problem proves to be their vision of Brooke's future, which differs greatly from that of her healthcare providers.
Determined to give their middle child every opportunity to reach her potential, Mr. and Mrs. Ellison start by fighting to bring her home. Dividing to conquer, Jean learns the skills needed to perform the numerous procedures her daughter requires daily, while Ed renovates the house until it is wheelchair-accessible and battles the bureaucracy of insurance claims. In the meantime, Brooke optimistically prepares to resume her academic studies. It's an uphill road potholed with countless obstacles, but love, sacrifice, and some unexpected support help to pave the way.
Based on a true story, this made-for-TV movie gives the viewer a glimpse into the world of disabilities. With only a few profanities, one instance of mild sexual innuendo, and mention of menopause, it covers a ten-year period (Lacey Chabert plays the older Brooke), showing how ordinary people can accomplish extraordinary things.
The production is remarkable on another level too, because of its director -- Christopher Reeve. Best know as the "Superman" who once convinced audiences a man could fly, the former actor was himself the victim of a spinal cord injury. Through this project, which turned out to be his last (he unexpectedly passed away in October of 2004), he proves nothing soars so high as the tenacity of the human spirit. Inspired by the likes of Chris and Brooke, that's a dream we can all believe in.
Discussion Ideas After The Movie
Teaching ideas and topics to discuss about The Brooke Ellison Story.
Brooke and Jean Ellison published their story in a book called, Miracles Happen. To find out more about them and what they are doing now, visit Brooke’s home page at: http://www.brookeellison.com/
Actor / director Christopher Reeve worked tirelessly as an advocate for spinal cord injury treatment and research (including the controversial practice of stem-cell research). He also established The Christopher Reeve Paralysis Foundation.
At his death, CNN published this biography: http://edition.cnn.com/2004/SHOWBIZ/Movies/10/11/obit.reeve/