One day after Mother’s Day, NBC presents a powerful story about parental love for a child. Strong acting and Anna Sandor’s sensitive, emotional script prevent “For the Love of My Child” from succumbing to the recent made-for-TV ills of exploitation and exaggeration; instead, vidpic triumphs by taking a difficult subject and making it easy to swallow.
Anissa Ayala (Teresa Dispina) is a happy teenager until she’s diagnosed with leukemia. Dispina’s transformation from a “normal teen” to warrior against her life-threatening disease builds slowly, giving viewers a taste of her denial, acceptance and persistent fear.
Dispina’s performance is equalled by Priscilla Lopez, who gives megadoses of reality to the role of mother Mary Ayala, whose every waking and sleeping hour is focused on saving her child.
It’s her idea to conceive a baby as a compatible bone marrow donor; medical ethicists and the media begin stalking the family, bent on portraying Mary Ayala’s pregnancy as something akin to Dr. Mengele’s Nazi experiments.
The script uses talkshow guests to represent those in the media who question the Ayalas’ motives; a more in-depth characterization of one of these “opponents” would’ve been a nice addition.
Scripter Sandor’s happy ending is hardly a surprise — the newborn is a perfect bone marrow match. Telepic’s power lies in the scenes between the diagnosis and cure, where small acts of heroism and the deaths of other leukemia patients give life a special meaning by the end of this two hours.
Waris Hussein’s direction pushes all the right buttons. Sad scenes are handled gracefully, never letting too many wet eyes fill the screen.
Supporting performances by Luis Antonio Ramos as Anissa’s boyfriend, and Amir Williams as a young leukemia patient breathe real life into this depiction. The producers, casting director Beth Klein and Canadian caster Stuart Aikins have brought in fresh, realistic players to all the roles.
Medical movies are nothing new but the way the action here is kept out of the hospital and the injection of realism into the script and acting makes “For the Love of My Child” a healthy TV experience.