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The Doctor (1991)

The Doctor. Feature film. (1991, 122 mins) IMDB

...do they show this movie in medical schools?...

T

he last line of my notes is: It's not the first time I've seen this movie, but I love it. The question is why?

The simple answer is it moved me--emotionally moved me. In the theory of story, bringing emotion and understanding together is why we read novels and watch films.

The story can be summed up easily. A selfish surgeon gets a dose of his own medicine when he discovers he has throat cancer, decides he doesn't like it and changes as a result. I know, it doesn't move you, you have to watch the film to get that part.

There's the inciting incident when he realizes a cough isn't just a cough. Act I climax when he discovers he has to have a biopsy. Act II dealing with the hell of treatment. At one point he's mistaken for another patient and despite his protests is given an enema anyway. Act II climax with the news the radiation treatment didn't work. He never was closer to his own death. Act III the surgery, the death of his friend June, the reconciliation with his wife and the final transformation as he gives his interns a lesson on being a patient.

Here's an example of smart filmmaking. Our good doctor has just found out the devastating news the need for a biopsy. He arrives home in shock. His wife tells their son, "Go talk to you dad." The son runs to the phone, picks it up and speaks into the receiver. He doesn't expect his dad is standing in the kitchen next to him. So much said in such a short scene. The poetry of screenwriting.

The next time you get bad medical treatment, pull out a copy of this DVD and wave it around.

Posted 2009/03/22 at 20h34ET in Movie Commentary.

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