John Q is the story about an “everyman”, John Q. Public, if you will. John Q is a man forced with a decision that millions of Americans are forced to make every day. What do you do when your child needs a life-saving operation and your health care provider will not provide that service? You have a choice to make. You can either work within the system or you can buck it.
John Q. Archibald chooses the latter.
Denzel Washington plays John Q. A church going, factory working man that loves his family. He has a lovely wife (Kimberly Elise) and a son, Michael (Daniel E. Smith). Sure, times are tough for the Archibald family. Everyone has it tough. We all live paycheck to paycheck.
But the Archibalds have it even tougher.
John is only working 20 hours a week at the factory. Bills are piling up. Some bills are getting paid late, while others go unpaid. The creditors have started coming around claiming what is theirs.
It is evident, from the start of the movie, that there is a lot of love in this family. John and Denise are making the best of a tight situation. John does have a few character flaws. He never finishes what he starts and he always procrastinates.
John’s son, Michael, is faced with heart transplant surgery, and their HMO will not cover the operation. The hospital also prevents Michael’s name from getting on the donor list. John goes through all the red tape and appeals to get the HMO to provide funds for the operation. Unfortunely, this is not enough to save his son!
So, he takes the hospital hostage.
This is where the second story line begins. A story of a desperate father willing to do anything to save his son’s life. One thing we must keep in prospective. This is not just a black man wielding a gun at a room full of white hostages. This is not just a black man struggling with taking lives of innocent people. This is the plight that millions of Americans face without adequate healthcare. This is one man trying to provide for his family.
We have learned a lot about John Q before he takes the hospital hostage. He has played every card fairly that this world has dealt him. He is a moral man.
The underlying theme throughout this picture is the sad fact that this could happen to any one of us. We are one paycheck away from being John Qs. Here is an average American pushed into doing the unthinkable. He is in a lose-lose situation. John’s only thought is to save his son’s life. By doing this, he may ultimately lose his own.
Ann Heche plays the hospital administer that denies the Archibald family coverage and James Woods is the heart surgeon. I can only say that both characters are heartless and they also need to be put on the donor list.
Sure, this movie has its flaws. It sometimes gets too preachy. We all know that this country needs Health Care reform. The movie is somewhat ironic and foretelling. There is a news clip of Ted Demme stating we need better health care (the late-filmmaker recently died of an undetected heart ailment).
This movie makes one point that needs to be explored more. Why are we paying for Health Insurance when you can’t get it when you really need it? The real hostages here are the American public.