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The now famed American poetess, Sylvia Plath (Gwyneth Paltrow) is a Fulbright scholar at Cambridge, England in 1956. Angered over a stinging review of her work by the literary roué Ted Hughes (Dennis Craig), she is then charmed by his poetry and blatantly sets out to seduce him. They marry soon after.
Sylvia had tried to commit suicide several times in her youth. Recalling one terrifying near miss, her cold-seeming mother resents Hughes, sensing the power in passionate love to harm her fragile, brilliant daughter. The initially torrid life that Ted and Sylvia share in both America and in rural Britain, grows tired through the strain of two children, her lack of joy in teaching, and his greater poetic success, all of which seem to stifle her creativity.
It ends because of his chronic infidelities, reduced in this version to a committed affair with a mutual friend, the thrice-married, Assia Wevill (Amira Casar), who becomes pregnant. Rage, jealousy, and depression become Sylvia’s muse. The more she suffers with Hughes, the more productive and poignant is her work. Unable to lure him back, she leaves buttered bread and milk for her children, seals the kitchen, and gasses herself to death.
The new interns, Roy Basch (Tim Matheson), Chuck (Howard Rollins, Jr.) and Wayne Potts (Michael Sacks), begin their year of internal medicine training in a busy city hospital under construction. After initial introductions led by the vague staff man and vapid chief resident, they become the specific charges of the cynical resident doctor "Fats" (Charles Haid). Fats teaches them attitude and language: how to "buff" (improve) and "turf" (transfer) "gomers" (Get Out of My Emergency Room)--the words used to describe management of incurable, hateful patients who "never die," regardless of the abuse the clumsy housestaff might inflict. But Fats has heart.
Soon, they fall under the command of the militaristic and lonely woman resident, Jo Miller (Lisa Pelikan), who cannot bring herself to withhold treatment, even at a patient's request. She blames underlings for the failings of medicine and nature, as well as herself.
Wayne throws himself from the hospital roof because of a misplaced sense of guilt over a patient's demise. Roy falls in love with the nurse, Molly (Kathryn Dowling), but nearly loses her as he begins to emulate Jo's cold, calculating style. He is "rescued" in the nick of time by his friends, Fats, and the death of a physician patient (Ossie Davis) whom he admires. With recovered equanimity and renewed anger over the suicide of his fellow intern, Roy refuses to go on with his residency.
This film is based on the true life story of Lucille Teasdale, one of Canada's first female physicians. She received many refusals for positions in Canadian hospitals so she joined an Italian colleague to work in a Catholic mission hospital in Uganda. She and her colleague later married and continued their work at the hospital where they trained nurses and doctors, sheltered refugees, and gradually modernized their facilities. They spent their lives caring for the lost, sick, and dying in a world of poverty, tribal conflict, and civil war.
A daughter was born to them. The child resented her mother's commitment to the patients in the hospital. After being sent to Italy for school, she finally recognized her parents' dedication and became a physician herself, working in Italy and helping to support the hospital. Dr. Lucille contracted AIDS from surgical injuries but continued to work until her death in 1996.
Following a car accident that claims the life of her husband (a well-known European composer) and their only child, Julie de Courcy (Juliette Binoche) must find ways to survive emotionally and make a new life for herself. She determinedly simplifies her life, but several complications arise.
From the beginning, she is subject to occasional mysterious blackouts following bursts of music of the sort that her husband composed. There are also her feelings for an attractive collaborator of her husband’s (Olivier, played by Benoît Régent), who is hoping to complete an important composition her husband had left unfinished. Then, half way through the film she discovers that her husband had had a mistress for several years before his death and that the mistress is now pregnant with his child. And of course there is Julie’s grief, which she is trying hard not to show, and which we sense is expressed in her coolness and detachment.
Julie finally comes through these things and emerges from her self-imposed isolation after she makes some fundamental changes in her view of what belongs to her and what belongs to her husband, his mistress, and their child. We finally discover that a hint dropped early in the film is significant, that in fact Julie is the composer of the much-praised works that had been attributed to her husband. In the end, she decides to come out as the composer by finishing the big piece, which will bring her the credit she has long deserved. Having made that decision, she feels free to welcome Olivier’s fine attentions. The house she’d lived in with her husband she gives to her husband’s mistress and her unborn child.
Grace Rhodes (Lisa Eichhorn) is an unmarried New York advertising executive. Around forty years old, she decides that she wants a child and has no more time to find the right man. She becomes a client of Cryogenetics Sperm Bank and conceives by donor insemination.
As soon as she is pregnant, she becomes obsessed with learning more about the sperm donor, and her friend, Elaine, helps her by taking on a temp job at the sperm bank and breaking into their files, discovering the identity of Grace's donor, a photographer named Peter Kessler (Stanley Tucci). He is single, having an affair with a married woman, and his landscape photographs never include human figures because, he says, "people mess up the composition."
Grace visits Peter's upstate New York studio. They meet, become friends, and then begin dating. Grace tells him she is pregnant and that he is the child's donor father. He is outraged and throws her out. Months pass, and Peter arrives in New York to apologize to Grace, who is now heavily pregnant. He gives her a photograph he had taken, of her. The film ends ambiguously, but suggests that they will become a couple and parent the child together.
Benigno (Javier Cámara) and Marco (Darío Grandinetti) meet and become friends while caring for women they love in a coma clinic. Benigno is a male nurse taking care of Alicia (Leonor Watling), a dancer he barely knows but became infatuated with just before the accident that put her in a coma four years ago. Marco is a journalist who was trying to interview Lydia (Rosario Flores), a famous female bullfighter, when they fell for each other. Soon afterward, she is badly gored in the bullring and winds up in a coma in the same clinic as Alicia.
Benigno’s care of Alicia in her comatose state is extremely devoted. He talks to her constantly, and he goes to movies he thinks she would have liked and tells her about them. Alicia’s dance mentor (Geraldine Chaplin) also talks to her, and Benigno urges Marco to do the same with Lydia, but Marco is unable to talk to Lydia, whom he thinks of as already dead (there is reason to think that she is, in fact, more gravely injured than Alicia).
Benigno’s caring goes well beyond talking. He tells Marco that he wants to marry Alicia. He also gives Alicia intimate massages, and finally the hospital staff discover that he has impregnated her. He is fired and sent to jail, where he takes his own life. In the end, while Lydia dies, Alicia comes out of her coma to deliver the child, which is stillborn. Marco’s last words to Benigno, at Benigno’s grave: "Alicia is alive. You woke her up."
The sculptor Ken Harrison (Richard Dreyfuss) is badly injured in a car accident and finds himself in the middle of life permanently paralyzed below the neck and dependent on others for his care and survival. Ken is a strong-minded, passionate man totally dedicated to his art, and he decides he does not want to go on with the compromised, highly dependent life that his doctors, his girlfriend Pat (Janet Eilber), and others urge on him. He breaks up with Pat and fights to be released from the hospital, to gain control of his life in order to stop the care that keeps him alive and unhappy.
His antagonist is the hospital's medical director Dr. Emerson (John Cassavetes), who believes in preserving life no matter what, and so tries to get Ken committed as clinically depressed. Ken's attending physician, Dr. Scott (Christine Lahti), begins with the establishment but gradually moves toward Ken's position.
The film ends with the judge at a legal hearing deciding that Ken is not clinically depressed and that he thus has the right to refuse treatment and be discharged. In the last scene, Ken lies in a hospital bed framed by his own sculptural realization of the forearm and hand of God from Michelangelo's Creation of Man.
This medical thriller begins with two crazed naked men escaping from an unmarked urban institutional building. One of them winds up in the Gramercy Hospital (NYC) Emergency Room under the care of the young Dr. Guy Luthan (Hugh Grant). The patient dies while exhibiting baffling symptoms and under suspicious circumstances. Dr. Luthan decides to investigate, against the advice of his boss, but with the assistance of ER nurse Jodie Trammel (Sarah Jessica Parker). Suddenly, police are breaking into his apartment and finding (obviously planted) cocaine. Luthan is fired by the hospital, his promising career apparently ruined by a faceless criminal conspiracy.
Still intrigued by the mystery patient, Luthan follows some street leads that take him to the Inferno-like caverns underneath Grand Central Station and the homeless people who live there. He is pursued by armed agents, is wounded, and wakes up in a hospital bed paralyzed from the neck down. Enter the prize-laden Dr. Lawrence Myrick (Gene Hackman), who explains to Luthan that he is trying to develop a medical procedure that will regenerate human nerve tissue and has been secretly using the homeless as guinea pigs. He rationalizes this practice on the basis of its huge potential benefits and tries to enlist Luthan on his side, explaining that his paralysis is temporary (but under Myrick's control) and in part an attempt to stir up Luthan's empathy for the patients who could be helped by Myrick's procedure if it is developed.
Of course, Luthan escapes from the bed. On the way out he encounters Myrick and his armed agents in the lobby, where there is one last round in the ethical debate before Myrick is accidentally killed by one of his henchman. Luthan's career is reconstituted, he is awarded a fellowship, and the film ends with Myrick's widow standing at the gate of the NYU School of Medicine giving Myrick's data to Luthan, saying that her husband was trying to do good but in the wrong way. She hopes that Luthan will use the data in the right way. Luthan smilingly enters a stone building with "Neurology" carved in the lintel.
Following the death of an aphasic hermit woman in the woods of North Carolina, it is discovered that she is survived by a daughter (Jodie Foster), a young woman who lives by herself as a kind of wild child, speaking a private language, and intensely fearful of human contact. The authorities decide that she must be normalized for her own good, but Dr. Jerry Lovell (Liam Neeson) disagrees, arguing that, although different, she is fine and has not asked for help. He insists on getting her informed consent before treatment. A judge agrees to give Lovell three months to observe the woman, whose name turns out to be Nell, and find evidence that she should not be treated against her will.
Lovell recruits a partner, psychologist Paula Olsen (Natasha Richardson), and together they set up an observation base on a houseboat with a view of Nell's cabin. From there Lovell makes a series of attempts to win Nell's confidence and understand her language. (Olsen for much of the film mainly represents a set of professional values more conservative that Lovell's unconventional therapeutic moves--which, for example, make her suspect that he is sexually attracted to Nell. Her own sexual presence, while downplayed, serves to defuse this potential.)
Lovell wins Nell's confidence (she calls him her "guardian angel") and the secrets of her speech and wounded psyche (a twin sister died young, and Nell has apparently at least witnessed sexual abuse). Following a court hearing in which Nell speaks in her own defense, the world gets word of her case and journalists descend on her remote cabin on foot and by helicopter.
Fearing that civilization will destroy Nell, Lovell arranges to have her hospitalized as the least available evil. However, when he finds her drugged, he sees that hospitalization is no solution, and he carries Nell out of the hospital and back to her cabin. He tries to make her understand that he is not her guardian angel.
The film switches to a warmly-lit lakeside scene five years later, when all problems seem to have been solved. Lovell and Olsen, who are married with a little girl, and several other sympathetic characters are picnicking with Nell near her cabin, and Nell is shown entranced and somehow emotionally fulfilled in being with the child, who is the age at which her twin sister died.
A year in the life of a group of interns in a big city hospital guided by the wise internist (Buddy Ebsen) and the irascible, woman-hating surgeon (Telly Savalas). Contortionist posturing designed to lead to desired residencies is the major theme. The only female intern, and the most brilliant of the lot, wants to be a surgeon, but she is repeatedly belittled by the surgical chief until he realizes--not that she is good--but that she is the sole support of a daughter.
Another intern falls in love with a young Asian patient and at her death resolves to work in her country. A crisis emerges around the overdose of a suicidal patient with syringomyelia; all the interns are held responsible until they rather brutally force a confession from the man's wife. Friends throughout medical school, Lou Worship (James MacArthur) and Sean Otis (Cliff Robertson) plan to become surgeons and open a clinic for the poor. Otis falls for a glamorous model, while Worship is smitten with obstetrics and a student nurse (Stephanie Powers).
Forsaking the original plan, Worship applies to obstetrics, pressures his fiancee to sacrifice her dream of an international career, and tells on Otis when he discovers that he is helping his girlfriend abort her unwanted child. His career ruined, Otis marries the irretrievably pregnant woman and expresses his admiration to Worship for doing the right thing.