Title: Gifted Hands (2009; PG)
Director: Thomas Carter
Major Themes: Biographies, Doctors, Surgeons, True Stories, Twins
Synopsis: The story of Ben Carson’s life, from his struggles in school through to how he stood on the world’s medical stage sharing how the Lord helped him perform a surgery that no one had successfully performed before.
Many years ago, soon after moving to New Zealand, my family and I sat around the kitchen table. It was evening, the only warmth in the room coming from the open fire on one side of the kitchen. We had been given several buckets’ worth of chestnuts, and that autumn evening we sat around carefully cutting the tough skins off the nutty flesh underneath, preparing them for use in stews and whatever else Mom managed to use them in.
As we worked, Mom sat on her chair in the corner, reading Gifted Hands aloud to us. I remember being transported back to the doctor’s days, living his life with him as he moved through school and, with his mother’s pushing, managed to get a medical job and finally did the amazing cutting-edge surgery that had never been fully successful before. Even today, when I think or hear something from that story, I can still see the worn yellow plastic tablecloth, feel the hard, smooth chestnut shells under my fingers, and smell the sweet scent they gave off.
Ben Carson had almost everything stacked against him in his growing-up years. Living in a single-parent household, a black person attending a white school, and many other challenges besides…few expected he would do well. But his mother believed in him and his brother Curtis, and did her best to instill a passion for learning and becoming better into each of them. “You can do it,” she told them enough that they likely grew sick of hearing her words. “You have it in you. Push yourself. You’re smarter than you think.” And yet all the while, she was secretly battling demons of her own—something Ben didn’t find out until long after he grew up.
Somewhere, somehow, Ben caught his mother’s vision. And he did push himself to learn, to explore the world, and find out everything he could about it. It was an uphill battle, but eventually, he managed to make it into medical school, and from there became a surgeon. And then, after years of careful research and many different experiences, he finally got to the place that got him international fame—successfully separating conjoined twins, with both children surviving the operation. Through it all, it was a journey of faith and hope, trust, sometimes despair, and the determination to follow God’s leading and ask His blessing on his work.
We watched Gifted Hands as a family just over a week ago. A friend had loaned it to us, and though it has been eleven years since Mom read it to us over many evenings, I still loved seeing the story come to life in a movie form. In this case, it seemed to follow the original story very well; it’s more a biographical film than a movie, but I still found it quite gripping. It was inspiring to see his faith in action—even when faced with heartbreak, he continued on. In all, this was a very encouraging watch, and I’d like to go back now and re-read the book. There are quite a few stories that just couldn’t be fit into something like this because of a lack of time. This is one movie I wouldn’t mind having on my shelf!
WARNING: Several times, people are shouting at each other. At one point, a mother is suffering from depression (it is revealed soon after that that her husband wasn’t the good man he originally appeared to be), and checks herself into the mental hospital. She lies to her sons about where she’s going. The worst spot is near the middle of the movie, from 00:38:50 – 00:40:44 when a boy is very angry and threatens his mother with a hammer, then tries to stab his friend—but is miraculously stopped from actually carrying through with the latter just in time. At one point, a woman starts to miscarry (some blood, nothing else), and later there are some surgery scenes with some blood, etc.
Ages 10 – 12, 12 – 15, 15 and Above, Adults, Family Friendly