You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Something the Lord Made

Buoyed by excellent lead performances, made-for-HBO trifle hardly screams out pay TV (think more Hallmark Hall of Fame), which is all the more to the pay channel's credit for recognizing the quiet power in this period piece.

Cast:
Dr. Alfred Blalock - Alan Rickman Vivien Thomas - Mos Def Mary Blalock - Kyra Sedgwick Clara Flanders-Thomas - Gabrielle Union William Thomas - Charles S. Dutton Dr. Helen Taussig - Mary Stuart Masterson

Although modest in tone and understated in execution, this is one of those rare fact-based films so fascinating that many will be tempted to rush out to read more about it, which certainly isn’t a bad thing. Buoyed by excellent lead performances, “Something the Lord Made” is a made-for-HBO trifle that hardly screams out pay TV (think more Hallmark Hall of Fame), which is all the more to the pay channel’s credit for recognizing the quiet power in this period piece.

Opening in 1930, pic chronicles the relationship between headstrong surgeon Alfred Blalock (Alan Rickman) and his African-American assistant, Vivien Thomas (Mos Def), who was instrumental in developing the pioneering procedure of cardiac surgery but, due to his race, was denied a share in the glory.

Putting aside his med-school ambitions to dive into Blalock’s research, Thomas struggles with low pay (he has to do odd jobs to cover his rent) and racial inequality. More skilled than most doctors, he’s labeled a “maintenance worker” before a rare show of temper prompts Blalock to intercede with their new medical home, Johns Hopkins U., on his behalf.

Veteran director Joe Sargent, whose HBO credits include “Miss Evers’ Boys” and “A Lesson Before Dying,” somehow makes the surgical gobbledygook thrilling.

Defying conventional wisdom among his peers, Blalock takes the plunge in operating on a baby girl turned blue by inadequate blood flow — even after a priest begs him not to tamper with God’s plan. “Perhaps God is, as you say, trying to kill this child,” the doctor says, smugly. “I am not.”

Spanning more than three decades, the characters age through subtle makeup and period clothing. And while there are stirring moments, the overwhelming feeling is one of melancholy owing to the limited opportunities minorities enjoyed during those years.

Rickman remains a wonderfully versatile actor, advancing from his stable of bad-guy roles into more middle-aged parts in “Love, Actually” and this. Def, meanwhile, with a series of low-key stage and screen roles under his belt, more than holds his own, making this very much a two-character piece in which the supporting players barely register.

HBO has been somewhat eclectic with its movie choices of late, focusing on smaller, more character-driven topics with niche appeal in order to undertake the occasional whopping enterprise like “Angels in America.” It’s a luxury most networks don’t share.

Yet whatever the business model that facilitates the channel’s strategy, the result has been some fine little films — the kind seldom seen on the major networks and almost wholly absent from the local multiplex. And in this instance, one with heart.

Something the Lord Made

HBO, Sun. May 30, 9 p.m.

Production: Filmed in Baltimore by Cort/Madden Prods. in association with Krainin Prods. Executive producers, Robert W. Cort, David Madden, Eric Hetzel; producers, Julian Krainin, Michael Drake; co-producer, Irving Sorkin; director, Joseph Sargent; writers, Peter Silverman, Robert Caswell; based in part on the magazine article by Katie McCabe;

Crew: camera, Donald M. Morgan; editor, Michael Brown; music, Christopher Young; production designer, Vincent Peranio; casting, Lynn Kress, Pat Moran. 110 MIN.

Cast: Dr. Alfred Blalock - Alan Rickman Vivien Thomas - Mos Def Mary Blalock - Kyra Sedgwick Clara Flanders-Thomas - Gabrielle Union William Thomas - Charles S. Dutton Dr. Helen Taussig - Mary Stuart Masterson

More TV

  • Fox News Taps Mark Levin for

    Fox News Taps Mark Levin for New Weekend Primetime Show

    Although modest in tone and understated in execution, this is one of those rare fact-based films so fascinating that many will be tempted to rush out to read more about it, which certainly isn’t a bad thing. Buoyed by excellent lead performances, “Something the Lord Made” is a made-for-HBO trifle that hardly screams out pay […]

  • Alexander Skarsgård Joins AMC, BBC Series

    'Big Little Lies'' Alexander Skarsgård Joins AMC, BBC Series 'Little Drummer Girl'

    Although modest in tone and understated in execution, this is one of those rare fact-based films so fascinating that many will be tempted to rush out to read more about it, which certainly isn’t a bad thing. Buoyed by excellent lead performances, “Something the Lord Made” is a made-for-HBO trifle that hardly screams out pay […]

  • Judah Smith

    Amazon Pilots Talk Show With Judah Smith of City Church in Beverly Hills (EXCLUSIVE)

    Although modest in tone and understated in execution, this is one of those rare fact-based films so fascinating that many will be tempted to rush out to read more about it, which certainly isn’t a bad thing. Buoyed by excellent lead performances, “Something the Lord Made” is a made-for-HBO trifle that hardly screams out pay […]

  • Harvey Weinstein

    Female-Led Investor Groups Target Weinstein Co. Acquisition

    Although modest in tone and understated in execution, this is one of those rare fact-based films so fascinating that many will be tempted to rush out to read more about it, which certainly isn’t a bad thing. Buoyed by excellent lead performances, “Something the Lord Made” is a made-for-HBO trifle that hardly screams out pay […]

  • Felix the Cat Float

    NBC Connects Verizon, Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade in Madison Ave. Boost

    Although modest in tone and understated in execution, this is one of those rare fact-based films so fascinating that many will be tempted to rush out to read more about it, which certainly isn’t a bad thing. Buoyed by excellent lead performances, “Something the Lord Made” is a made-for-HBO trifle that hardly screams out pay […]

  • "The Locomotion Reverberation"-- Pictured: Sheldon Cooper

    CBS Is Blacked Out on Dish as Carriage Talks Hit Snag

    Although modest in tone and understated in execution, this is one of those rare fact-based films so fascinating that many will be tempted to rush out to read more about it, which certainly isn’t a bad thing. Buoyed by excellent lead performances, “Something the Lord Made” is a made-for-HBO trifle that hardly screams out pay […]

  • 'CBS This Morning' Co-Hosts Condemn Charlie

    'CBS This Morning' Co-Hosts Condemn Charlie Rose's Behavior On Air

    Although modest in tone and understated in execution, this is one of those rare fact-based films so fascinating that many will be tempted to rush out to read more about it, which certainly isn’t a bad thing. Buoyed by excellent lead performances, “Something the Lord Made” is a made-for-HBO trifle that hardly screams out pay […]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content