Sunday, April 6, 2008

"The Memory Keeper's Daughter" airs on Lifetime TV April 12

Emily Watson plays the nurse who raises
a baby with Down syndrome as her daughter.

The bestselling Kim Edwards novel, The Memory Keeper's Daughter, has been adapted into a movie for the Lifetime Channel that will air April 12. The book deals with the birth of twins, one of whom has Down syndrome, and the twins' father decides to lie to everyone about the baby with Down syndrome. He tells his wife the baby has died and instructs a nurse to take the baby to an institution, but she can't bear to leave the baby there and decides to raise the baby as her daughter. His lie destroys his own family, but inadvertently gives his daughter with Down syndrome a good life, because Caroline, the nurse who raises her as her own, becomes a disability advocate for the rights of her child, who she names Phoebe.

I read the book and thought it did a great job of getting at some important issues related to how children with Down syndrome have been treated in the USA, as well as having an excellent message about the importance of parents advocating for their children with disabilities. The book also drives home the point that someone's inability to accept a child with Down syndrome is the biggest disability of all.

You can see a trailer and extended interviews with the actors appearing in the movie on the Lifetime Channel Web site. The movie stars Dermot Mulroney, Gretchen Mol and Emily Watson.
The Washington Post reported April 6 that a number of actors with Down syndrome appear in the movie. Executive producer Howard Braunstein said he worked with several Down syndrome groups to find the actors. He called the film "an enormously positive message for Down children."

Krystal Hope Nausbaum, who has Down syndrome, portrays Phoebe from age 13 to 22.

"The movie starts with the ignorance of the doctor, who calls them Mongoloids, and then you see Caroline, who is so determined for Phoebe to have a good life," Braunstein said.

Entertainment Weekly gave the movie a B+ and praised Nausbaum, saying the drama "leads to a poignant and redemptive climax, thanks to a notable performance by Krystal Nausbaum, an actress with Down syndrome."

And several parents of children with Down syndrome are pleased that Lifetime has adapted the book and hope "to see a character with Down syndrome portrayed respectfully in the media.," according to blog comments on the Lifetime Web site.