Gifted Hands: The Ben Carson Story, which premiered February 7
Okay, I may be stretching the point a bit, but some of the most exciting scenes in Gifted Hands are the montages of Ben Carson (at various ages), his older brother, Curtis, and his mother, Sonya, engaged in exhilirating moments of learning and intellectual engagement. Books, the arts, and–of course–science all play major roles in this inspirational biopic about the life of Dr. Benjamin S. Carson, whose lifelong journey led him to become director of pediatric neurosurgery at Johns Hopkins Children’s Center, a bestselling author, and a recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom.
Based on the book by Carson and Cecil Murphey, Gifted Hands stars Oscar-winner Cuba Gooding Jr. as Carson and Kimberly Elise (The Great Debaters, Diary of a Mad Black Woman) as Sonya Carson, as well as a solid supporting cast.
The movie opens with Carson’s childhood in Detroit. The young Benjamin struggles in school after his father abandons the family and his mother, who suffers from bouts of depression, is forced to be the family’s sole provider, despite the fact that she can’t read and has only a third-grade education. At the heart of the film (and Carson’s memoir) is the special bond between mother and son, and the sacrifices Sonya Carson made to give her boys an opportunity to overcome the many disadvantages life had thrust upon them.
To fulfill his dream of becoming a doctor, Carson must face down racial prejudice, inner rage, and self doubt. But his mother’s loving influence and his own strong faith in God support him through the most difficult times. And, thankfully, the film does not water down Carson’s commitment to Christ. We see him finding inspiration from his pastor during a church service, reciting a Christian hymn in a moment of desperation, and quietly praying during a nerve-racking surgery. A soliloquy that he delivers about the mysteries of the human brain, in response to a senior surgeon’s interrogation, feels a bit contrived, but it shows viewers that Carson credits his accomplishments not to his own power but to the Master Physician.
Gifted Hands certainly isn’t perfect. It suffers from patches of biopic predictability. But Gooding, Elise, and Carson’s extraordinary journey lift the film above standard melodrama. It’s appropriate that the movie should debut during Black History Month, but Carson’s life is worth watching–or reading about–anytime of the year. Here’s hoping lots of young people will tune in and find inspiration to dream, work, and achieve.