Fawcett's Sparkling Performance
Having already had 4 children Jewel (Farrah Fawcett - Dalva) and Leston Hilburn (Patrick Bergin - Children of the Mist) learn that they are expecting a fifth and like the others expect it to all to be fine with Cathedral (Cicely Tyson - Ms. Scrooge) delivering this one like she had done the others. But Cathedral has a premonition about this child being a hardship and not only is it a troubled child birth but their child, who they call Brenda Kay, is born with Down's syndrome. Whilst the doctors tell Jewel that Brenda Kay has no hope of surviving and should be sent to a home, as she will be a burden, Jewel refuses to give up on giving their daughter the best life they can no matter what it takes, even if it means selling up and moving to California.
"Jewel" is based upon the novel of the same name written by Bret Lott and as you can see from that synopsis it is the story of a woman devoted to giving her Down's syndrome daughter the best opportunities in life at a time, the 1940's, when children born with Down's syndrome were given up on. Now my understanding is that Lott's book is based on a true story but I don't know how much of that true story makes it into the movie as it has to be said that "Jewel" is a touching and poignant drama which seems to iron over some of life's wrinkles to condense a lot in to a short space of time. But that doesn't prevent it from being a very good movie and one which features one of Farrah Fawcett's strongest performances.
"Jewel" is really quite a simple movie as on one level it highlights the difficulties of having a Down's syndrome child back in the 1940s and on the other it highlights the sacrifices of a mother to give her daughter the best chances of a good life. Both intertwine beautifully to tell a very strong story which has some of the usual bumps in the journey; with Jewel so devoted to Brenda Kay the rest of the family sometimes feel ignored. But there are some other surprises such as Jewel struggling with letting go as Brenda Kay grows up and some twists which don't revolve around Brenda Kay.
The thing about "Jewel" is that whilst the story is poignant and at times powerful it is Farrah Fawcett's performance as Jewel which blows you away. You think of Fawcett and you think glamour yet here she delivers a down to earth character, an unglamorous role with director Paul Shapiro resisting as much as he can cliche shots which focus on Fawcett's natural beauty. But it is more than the look because Fawcett delivers a convincing characterisation of a woman who becomes devoted to one child above everything else to the point of being blinkered to everything else and making a rod for her own back as time passes and Brenda grows up.
What this all boils down to is that "Jewel" is a strong and touching movie which details the trials and tribulations of raising a Down's syndrome child during the 1940s. It doesn't get really gritty when it comes to the hardships faced but in not being gritty and overly realistic it makes it easy to watch.