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  September 23rd, 2012       Posted by Frederik       Display Comments

Since Meryl has attended the Charlie Foundation Benefit yesterday to raise awareness in the Ketogenic Diet, what better film to spotlight than “First Do No Harm”. The 1997 television film is based on director Jim Abrahams’ experiences with the disease after his son has been diagnosed with epilepsy. New DVD screencaptures as well as four new clips have been added. Production notes and review after the cut. To learn more about Meryl’s involvement with the organization, be sure to check the charity page on The Charlie Foundation and watch her 1994 PSA An Introduction to the Ketogenic Diet. Again, many thanks to Katrin for guiding the film to me. As always, please share your toughts on “First Do No Harm” in the comments.

Production Notes

Meryl Streep made “First Do No Harm” for the most personal reason. Her friend Jim Abraham’s son, Charlie, was a schoolmate of her own children in California, and developed epilepsy in his first year. “I watched them negotiate the labyrinth of care for him, and I was witness to their frustrations and their anguish. They got swept into this whirlpool. Charlie was not doing well at the end of the second year. They had access to all the best medical advice, the best conventional wisdom; and it was on the eve of brain surgery for him that Jim discovered the ketogenic diet in the library. They flew to Johns Hopkins, which was the last place on earth that was still administering the diet.” Both Streep and Abrahams were supportive of the Ketogenic Diet ever since, and Meryl hosted a public service announcement for the Charlie Foundation. When Abrahams planned a film about the Ketogenic Diet, Meryl was on board right from the beginning. “There was a lot of talk about making a feature, but we all thought that it would be better if it was seen by a lot of people”, Meryl says. “So we took it to TV. It’s the populist medium, where we get out what we’re trying to say to the most people.”

On her character, the “fiercely determined” mother, Meryl says “She’s forced to be. But basically she’s somebody who is going along in her life, the way we all do, happily, and then reality flips – and that’s when you find the measure of your character, in adversity: what happens when it all goes bad. So, she’s probably somebody who believes in everything that her doctors tell her – and that they are telling her the whole truth and nothing but the truth – but her faith is shaken along this journey. And then she realizes, as we all do, that you’re in charge of your own destiny and of your child’s health, and that there are a lot of answers out there, but that it’s always going to be up to you to sift through them”.

Frederik’s Review

“First Do No Harm” is an important film, because epilepsy hasn’t been the subject to many films before, nor afterwards. The decision to bring it to the small screen is understandable, in order to reach a wider audience. And while the film reminds you at times that it’s a conventional television piece, it keeps its pace throughout and is very emotional at times. The film not only covers the disease itself and how it effects the Reimueller family, but also shines a more critical light at the American health system. The acting is first rate as well. Meryl Streep is exceptional as the mother, especially in those scenes where she is helpless and can only hope that the doctors will find a cure for her child. It’s one of her more earthy performances and could have won her the Golden Globe or Emmy she was nominated for. The rest of the cast is equally good, from the child actors to Fred Ward as Meryl’s husband, to Margo Martindale as the supportive friend. “First Do No Harm” is not easy to consume, but it’s an exemplary television film to raise awareness. Very recommended.




  • Emma Williams

    It was a fantastic evening and it was a true honour to meet such a remarkable and lovely lady as Meryl Streep. It cannot be under estimated the difference the movie ‘First Do No Harm’ has made in the ketogenic world and the impact Meryl’s performance has had on us all that have gone through the heartbreak of having a child with drug resistant epilepsy. I found out about the Ketogenic Diet through The Charlie Foundation and this film, that led to my son’s life being turned around and I set up Matthew’s Friends in the UK. Like The Charlie Foundation, we specialise in Ketogenic Dietary Therapies and spread the word around the world and we give out hundreds of copies of this movie. The ripple effect carries on……

  • Dawn Kopp

    We had the good fortune to attend the conference last weekend. My son, Brandon, was put on the diet 10 weeks after his first seizure in 2009. He has been seizure free and med free for more than 2 years. We weaned him off the diet 3 weeks ago and he is doing amazingly well. This diet savedhis life. Jim Abrahams and Meryl Streep helped bring awareness of this diet and we will be forever grateful.

    I would do anything to help the Charlie Foundtion continue to spread awareness of the ketogenic diet.
    dawn

  • Sharon Helmold

    I was also at the benefit last week. My daughter, Hannah started having seizures when she was 3 1/2 years old. She is now 17 and still having seizures. She was on the diet for 6 years. She became seizure free for a year and a half. Then she started cheating, I would find mac., and cheese in her closet, or ice cream under her bed. It became harder or her to stay on the diet, because of her 2 younger sisters.I still believe in the diet, and would tell anyone going through this to start the diet a s soon as possible!I remember watching that movie and thinking wow, this is my life! Meryl did a wonderful job, as did everyone else. Hannah still watches the movie, sometimes 2 times a day. Epilepsy does take a tole on the whole family, as portrayed in the movie. I’m so glad this movie was made. I had one Doctor tell me when asked about the diet, “that’s to much work, maybe somewhere down the line!” I think that should be left up to the parents to decide! Thank you Mr. Abraham’s for making Hannah’s favorite movie. She doesn’t feel so alone!

  • Beth Zupec-Kania

    My favorite quote of the evening from Meryl’s interviews; ‘……that the ketogenic diet is not offered to children with epilepsy is unconscionable’. Meryl has hit the nail on the head with this one. We can never thank her enough.

  • Jane

    Thank you so much for sharing the video! It’s a wonderful tribute, Meryl must have been in tears after seeing it, I certainly was.
    All of this makes me respect her even more than I already did, she truely is the most inspiring artist I know.

  • Jim Abrahams

    Meryl was brilliant, gracious, emotional, humble, funny, beautiful and inspiring at our benefit for The Charlie Foundation last Friday night.
    We can never thank her adequately.
    This is a link to the video tribute we played at the gala:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tPa5s_GXZcI

    Jim Abrahams, Charlie’s Dad
    Director/The Charlie Foundation To Help Cure Pediatric Epilepsy

  • lindi

    I love this movie so much and Meryl´s performance aswell was enchanting

  • Isabel

    Once again Meryl Streep gives us again another grander portray of mother a mother figure, only like the one of the big ones she can give

  • Sonja

    That’s one of the most heart breaking movies I’ve EVER seen.
    Really hard to watch the little boy suffering so much and Meryl as his mom being so helpless until she starts to look for another treatment of epilepsy.
    But although it’s hard to see, because only people with a cold heart could not be moved by this, it’s a must see.
    Great story and great cast all the way. It’s just sad it did not recieve more (awards) attention.

  • pam h

    I agree with everything that Frederik said about the film. I was at the benefit last night and actually got to spend two whole minutes alone talking one on one with Meryl. What an honor for me.

    What I would also like to say that some of the news reports did not pick up was that this film is based on a very true story and the story is quite shocking to think that our medical community would rather use drugs and brain surgery, a lobotomy , to cure this than the ketogenic diet . I had the pleasure of talking on the phone with Jim Abraham a couple of times to find out details of how Meryl got involved. The funny thing was I was shocked when I called the foundation to have this gentle father of Charlie answer the phone himself. What I thought he was was a business man who somehow knew Meryl through the entertainment business. To my shock , I found out last night he was the director of a number of pretty funny films like Airplane and Ruthless People. Over a phone call a couple of months ago, I asked Jim how he knew Meryl and how she got involved. He told me that they both lived in Santa Monica in the late eighties, early nineties . His wife and Meryl both were members of the PTA at the elementary school where their daughters attended school. Charlie was a bit younger . The Abrahams started to go through this tough journey with their son and Meryl was a friend to them. They appeared on a Dateline News segment. They received thousands of pieces of mail after that show was aired. Jim discovered this letter from this mother of an epileptic son who had written him after she saw the segment about his family’s journey. Jim decided that the story had to be filmed and he called on Meryl to see if she would help and she signed up immediately. First Do No Harm is a true story that your website fans really must see. So the film was great, Meryl was great but more importantly, once again Meryl shows her true colors as a friend , an advocate of important causes and someone to really look up to for integrity, including the integrity she brings to her acting.