Switched at Birth (1991) starring Bonnie Bedelia, Brian Kerwin, John M. Jackson, Eve Gordon, Judith Hoag, Caroline McWilliams, Lois Smith, Kelli Williams, Ariana Richards, Erika Flores, Edward Asner, Beth Grant directed by Waris Hussein Movie Review

Switched at Birth (1991)   3/53/53/53/53/5

Bonnie Bedelia in Switched at Birth (1991)

Biological or Psychological Parenthood

When Regina Twigg (Bonnie Bedelia) went in to labour her and her husband Ernest (John M. Jackson) didn't panic as they already had children and knew the ropes. And everything went fine with the doc declaring that they have given birth to a healthy baby girl although they learn before they take her home that she has a heart condition and at some point in her future will need surgery. At the same time Robert Mays (Brian Kerwin) and his wife Barbara (Judith Hoag) take their newly born daughter home. A few years down the line Regina and Ernest learn that their daughter's blood type does not match theirs and there must have been a mistake at the hospital when she was born. Then at the age of 9 their daughter dies and Regina struggles with the loss leading her to decide that she needs to find her biological daughter who is living with Robert who is a single father after the death of his wife. It leads to plenty of issues and press attention as they learn of the hospital mix up and the issues which it has now caused.

It is the sort of thing you read in the press, a hospital mix up leads to two sets of parents taking home the wrong baby and it makes you wonder how many more times it might have accidentally happened and you have parents out there raising a child who technically is not theirs. It is a true story which is the basis of "Switched at Birth" a 3 hour made for TV movie, or two part special as it was originally, but one which from that synopsis you can see has a further element as we have one of the children dying.

Brian Kerwin and Ariana Richards in Switched at Birth (1991)

Now I don't know the true story on which "Switched at Birth" is based so don't know how accurately it tells it but having watched other movies which deal with the subject of babies switched at the hospital it covers many familiar aspects. We see how it accidentally happens; we see how in the case of Regina she had a sense that the baby they took home wasn't hers and plenty more typical aspects which are needed because it needs to build a realistic story. It doesn't always succeed as at times it throws in some thing a little too cutesy especially when it comes to the babies acting all, well basically cute but that also sort of works as it draws us in to feel for the children at a young age.

But as I said "Switched at Birth" has other elements which you don't find in other similar movies with several scenes devoted to the death of Barbara Mays due to cancer with a touching performance from Judith Hoag who as Barbara doesn't want anyone to see her as she loses her hair and health. There is also the aspect that Regina and Ernest's daughter dies and what follows is a very public battle over parenthood as the press learn of what happened and what is happening. Now I am not going to tell you what happens, the true story on which "Switched at Birth" is based can be found online but the story has so many different aspects that to do it justice it needed to broach the 180 minute mark and it gives it a very different angle as the selfishness of grown up is shown in a difficult situation.

As for the acting well this might not sound like a compliment but it is as the actors make their characters ordinary. When his wife becomes sick Brian Kerwin doesn't over do the emotion but brings out more of the anger side of things. When Regina learns that her daughter has a heart condition Bonnie Bedelia does upset but not to the point that it is so over the top that it is distracting. It is credit to the actors that they don't try and steal scenes and instead allow the story to be the focus.

What this all boils down to is that "Switched at Birth" is a good drama about a difficult subject and I would imagine that it is a parent's worst nightmare. But whilst there is nothing wrong with "Switched at Birth" it does tell a familiar story, one with some interesting aspects, but still one which is sadly familiar.