Director and scripters have done a masterly job in the rather difficult screen adaptation of Brian Clark’s legit drama. Richard Dreyfuss delivers a sensitive portrait of the animated young sculptor who is cut down in an automobile accident at the height of his life and recovers only to be paralysed from the neck down.
Although John Badham directed Dreyfuss in an actual stage version in Massachusetts for two weeks, he succeeds in opening up the story far beyond the confines of a proscenium. There is an opening sequence establishing his idyllic relationship with dancer Janet Eilber; scenes throughout the hospital with hard-crusted chief of staff John Cassavetes, soft-hearted doctor Christine Lahti and light-hearted, humane nurse trainee and orderly Kaki Hunter and Thomas Carter: and glimpses at Dreyfuss’ ‘former’ life, most particularly through his artist’s studio.
All the action leads to the unresolvable issue of who has the power to decide the fate of the patient – the hospital or the patient. Dreyfuss demands a legal hearing in his fight to be rid of all life-sustaining methods.