Picks and Pans Review: Alex: the Life of a Child

updated 04/21/1986 AT 01:00 AM EST

originally published 04/21/1986 AT 01:00 AM EST

ABC (Wed., April 23, 9 p.m. ET)

A+

I never cry at the movies, but I cried watching this one. Alex was a beautiful girl who died of cystic fibrosis when she was 8. Her father, SPORTS ILLUSTRATED writer Frank Deford, wrote a book about her, but I never could bring myself to read it. Just too sad. Then I watched the movie based on that book. It's sad, of course, within a tear of being too tragic to bear. But Alex tells its story with magnificent grace and without a moment's manipulation. You hear her pray: "Please, God, let someone find a cure for my disease." As she gets sicker she asks: "Why does God hate me?" A lesser movie would make you cringe at those lines, as if it were pulling puppet strings tied to your emotions. But not this one. Alex succeeds on its sincerity, not its sentimentality. It is a true love story. Gennie (Places in the Heart) James gives you all of Alex's joy, innocence, courage and fear in a simply phenomenal performance. Craig T. (Call to Glory) Nelson and Bonnie (Heart Like a Wheel) Bedelia also bring humanity to their portrayals of Deford and his wife, Carol. And the direction and screenplay do a seamless job of weaving together two stories: the life of Alex and the De-fords' agonizing decision about adopting another child. (See page 45.) Yes, Alex will leave you in tears. But she also will leave your heart forever warmer.

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