When You Remember Me (1990) starring Fred Savage, Kevin Spacey, Ellen Burstyn, Richard Jenkins, Dwier Brown, Lee Garlington directed by Harry Winer Movie Review

When You Remember Me (1990)   3/53/53/53/53/5

Fred Savage in When You Remember Me (1990)

One Flew Over the Nursing Home

With times hard Joanne "Lee Garlington) is having to move back to her mother's home with her children but with funds short and unable to give her son Mike (Fred Savage) the attention he needs as he has muscular dystrophy so takes the difficult decision to put him into a state nursing home. But it is a home for the elderly where he is the only young person in the place. If that wasn't bad enough when he is moved to another facility with younger people he also has to contend with the strict and controlling Nurse Cooder (Ellen Burstyn) who expects the patients to do as they are told and take their pills with no argument. As he deals with the abuse he sees going on he finds an ally in Wade Black (Kevin Spacey) who believing what Mike tells him sets about trying to help him and the others in the home.

It is important to remember that "When You Remember Me" is in fact based on a true story and that true story is a powerful one. As such if I was rating "When You Remember Me" on purely the power of the story then I would rate it highly. But as I am looking at the whole package there are other things I have to consider from the acting to the style and it has to be said that "When You Remember Me" is manipulative as are many similar movies and this one doesn't hold back.

Ellen Burstyn in When You Remember Me (1990)

Now that not holding back starts with the casting of Fred Savage as he is an instantly likeable young actor and so when we see him ending up in not one but two tough nursing homes you feel for him as you can see the rules sucking the life out of him especially at the first home. Throw in the fact Mike is in a wheelchair and it adds even more to the manipulation of our feelings. Having said that Fred Savage plays his part very well and is believable as a child dealing with muscular dystrophy, accepting of his limitations as well as the misery of being stuck in a nursing home, keeping the pain of life in there from his mum in order not to make her feel bad.

But we also get the abuse and without telling you too much we see abuse from Mike being forced to swallow sleeping pills to an old woman tied to her bed to prevent her being a pain to the night staff. Any movie which shows the abuse of those who can't defend themselves is going to cause the watcher to feel something and so "When You Remember Me" shows us various moments of abuse it angers us even if it doesn't always involve Mike.

Now I've already mentioned Fred Savage's performance and one name you don't usually see in these sorts of made for TV movies is Kevin Spacey who delivers one of those naturally sympathetic performances which allows us to warm to him even before he does anything. But then you have Ellen Burstyn who in fairness certainly delivers plenty of character as Nurse Cooder but it is a characterisation which ends up similar to Louise Fletcher's performance as Nurse Ratched in "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest" and that in turn also unfortunately makes "When You Remember Me" feel a little too similar at times with Mike antagonizing her.

What this all boils down to is that like many TV movies based on a true story "When You Remember Me" has its plus and its minus points. Those plus points include the acting especially of Fred Savage as well as the power of the true story which it is based upon. But at the same time it not only ends up feeling a little like "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest" it also ends up feeling manipulative.