A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this movie.
Strong positive messages of antiracism, courage, and integrity. Follow your passions instead of fame and recognition. Trying to right the wrongs of the past is better than trying nothing.
Positive Role Models
Vivien Thomas is curious, studious, and a quick learner. He fast becomes irreplaceable, brilliant, and influential. Despite a racist world that kept him hidden, held back, and contained in certain roles, he perseveres through these injustices disappointment after disappointment, only to be eventually and rightfully recognized. Unfortunately, women have little screentime or lines and are mainly used as subordinate "worry" roles (the wives "worry" over their husbands' long hours and Dr. Helen Taussig "worries" about Dr. Blalock's abilities).
Violence & Scariness
There are many scenes that show Vivien enduring racist treatment, language, and activity. The "N" word is said a few times. Additionally, there are a handful of surgery scenes that show dogs and a baby getting cut into. These scenes often have blood (one scene shows a man holding a deceased dog post-surgery with blood everywhere and another scene shows a surgeon cutting into something and blood squirts into his face). A good portion of the film also has to do with babies suffering from "blue baby syndrome," and one scene shows a tray full of baby hearts from deceased babies.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
Adults romantically kiss. A man vaguely jokes about "size."
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Strong language includes: the "N" word, "f--k," "s--t," "goddamn," "damn," "Jesus," and "hell."
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Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
Adults often smoke cigarettes and tobacco pipes. Adults also drink alcoholic beverages.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that Something the Lord Made is a television movie drama from HBO Films that explores the life of Vivien Thomas, assistant to Dr. Alfred Blalock, and pioneer of cardiac surgery. As a Black man, Thomas had to endure an incredible amount of racism and risk in order for the world to benefit from his contributions to modern surgery. With Blalock, Thomas was instrumental in performing the world's first successful heart surgery, and Thomas's pioneering techniques are still used by surgeons today. Set mainly in the 1940s and '50s, racist language, behavior, and attitudes are everywhere. Women characters also don't figure prominently, occupying only very limited roles. In terms of violence, many surgery scenes have blood, blood squirting or gushing, and blood appearing from incisions into the bodies of dogs (and a baby). Adults smoke cigarettes and tobacco pipes and drink alcoholic beverages. Surprisingly strong language includes a few bursts of the "N" word, "f--k," "s--t," "goddamn," "Jesus," and "hell." To stay in the loop on more movies like this, you can sign up for weekly Family Movie Night emails.
Is It Any Good?
Softly lit and deftly acted, this drama is a fine recuperation of an important historical figure who pioneered cardiac surgery and modern surgery techniques. Vivien Thomas may not enjoy appropriate credit for his contributions to the world, but Something the Lord Made tries to help change that by attributing most of the genius behind the world's first heart surgery to him and not the surgeon who performed the surgery, Dr. Alfred Blalock.
A nominee of dozens of awards, including many Emmy nominations, this television movie succeeds in the end largely because it mainly focuses on Thomas instead of Blalock (as a White hero/savior). He also isn't set up as a "White man who learns to overcome his racism," which is a plus. But the movie could've gone further in depicting the complexity of Dr. Alfred Blalock as someone not merely "not as racist" as everyone else. Indeed, before dying Blalock admits to "having regrets," but that's it. Instead of regrets, Blalock could've been defiant and not regretful at all, which might have made the story feel more accurate. Clearly, the film doesn't want to make a villain out of Blalock, whose portrait hangs influentially on the walls of Johns Hopkins (as does Thomas's), but lots of little representations like these make this film's recreation of 1940s America feel incredibly tepid, as Thomas surely historically endured much worse than what is shown here. Thomas's work, innovations, and brilliance saved and continues to save millions of lives, and it's a shame he isn't more widely recognized.
Did we miss something on diversity?
Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.