If moral values and good intentions were the only criteria for evaluating films, director Anthony Fabian's Louder Than Words, the moving true story of a couple who single-handedly build a children's hospital after losing their young daughter, should be in line for a best-feature Oscar.
Sadly, annoying questions get in the way: Is this story compelling? Will it keep your attention for its 95-minute running time? Is it worth the ticket price?
Sadly, the answer is: not quite.
David Duchovny and Hope Davis deliver their usual level of solid, no-nonsense acting as John and Brenda Fareri, an affluent couple from Greenwich, Conn., who build often tasteless, if lucrative, suburban developments. He's a property developer and builder, she's an accomplished designer and interior decorator.
They live an ideal life with their four children - teenage triplets Julie, Michael, and Stephanie, hers from a previous marriage; and Maria, the vivacious, funny, smart tween daughter they had together.
The film's first third alternates between scenes of Maria living a full life with her family and the dying Maria at the small, crowded, badly appointed county hospital where she ends up after contracting rabies from a bat bite.
Played by the delightful child actor Olivia Steele-Falconer, Maria acts as the family's self-appointed glue, bringing joy to her otherwise distant father and pleasure to her siblings as they go through pre-college angst.
When she dies, the family falls apart.
Unable to cope with his emotions, John becomes consumed with the idea of building a world-class children's hospital. Everyone laughs at him, but he eventually raises the money, in the process rallying the family behind the project.
This story truly is inspirational and a lesson about civic responsibility. However, it makes for little more than a TV movie or a straight-to-video snack.