We gave it a C
”Fred Savage in a wheelchair?” said one of my colleagues, taking a gander at the publicity shots for the new TV movie, When You Remember Me. ”We’re talking Emmy Award time here!”
Disease-of-the-week TV movies have taught us to be cynical like that, but this one is somewhat better than most. It’s a fictionalized version of a true story about a young man who, stricken with muscular dystrophy, fights for more humane treatment of the disabled. Fourteen-year-old Mike Mills, played by The Wonder Years‘ Savage, is placed in a nursing home for the elderly when his single mother can’t provide or afford a more appropriate place for him. Mike observes the abuse and humiliation of the patients there, and, when he’s transferred to a place that includes teenagers, finds conditions even worse.
Mike and a sympathetic recreation director played by Kevin Spacey (Wiseguy) fight the system, buck the rules, and take on The Establishment, which is embodied by Ellen Burstyn doing an over-the-top impersonation of Nurse Ratched in One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. The high point of the movie occurs when Mike and his teenage pals win permission to attend a Grateful Dead concert, where the squeaking of their wheelchairs is drowned out by the yowling of Bob Weir.
When You Remember Me is shameless and manipulative, but Savage and Spacey are good. Savage really does deserve an Emmy for the way he embodies Mike’s physical condition and underplays his melodramatic lines, and Spacey, known for his psycho-villain roles, plays a noble hero here with skillful ease. C