So far I have suggested two ways of moving to Stage II of Emotional Intelligence: playing golf and reading about it. Another way is to watch films. In a blog discussion about what films you could watch to develop emotional intelligence, I remember someone suggesting The Doctor. a 1991 film starring William Hurt. The film suddenly appeared on one of cable channels and I have just watched it.
The Doctor in question, Jack MacKee, is a gifted surgeon who tells his residents that that technique is everything. Emotion, in fact, can get in the way when a patient’s life hangs by a thread and what is needed is brisk, reflex execution. A surgeon’s job is “fix it and get out. I’d rather you cut straight and cared less.” His cool, sterile manner is a proud skill learned through practice, a true mark of his professionalism. He believes what he tells his residents; it has never occurred to him to believe any differently. He thinks it will make them better doctors.
Jack, while leading a comfortable life, is not close to his family. There is a revealing scene where he’s standing in the living room when a son races in. “Say hello to your father,” his wife says, and the kid automatically picks up the phone.
Then Jack gets sick. What he thinks is a little cough turns out to be a malignant tumour on his larynx. Suddenly he is being treated by a stone-faced throat specialist in the same curt, dry-ice manner that he used with his own patients — and he doesn’t like it one bit. Nor does he like the hours of waiting, the bureaucracy and the endless pages of official forms. He needs radiation therapy and for the first time, he grows close to a patient, June, who has a Grade IV brain tumour. They meet daily while they’re having their treatments. She becomes the key to Jack’s emotional awakening. With her as his guide, he learns not only how to better cope with his own illness but how to become a more enlightened physician.
Hurt gives a mesmerizing performance and as someone who himself was diagnosed with malignant internal melanoma just before the Sydney Olympics and given a 10% chance of survival, I may have over-related to the film. On the other hand the development of Emotional Intelligence by Hurt is wonderfully done.
You can watch the film on You Tube you don’t mind Portuguese subtitles. The film title Um golpe do destino translates as A Stroke of Destiny. Wrong disease and actually it is the wrong message. The real message of the film is this:
“Life is like bridge. The hand you are dealt is fate, the way you play it is up to you.”
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