Watch Everybody's Baby: The Rescue of Jessica McClure
In 1987, eighteen-month-old Jessica McClure fell into a well in Midland, Texas, and became trapped. What followed was a harrowing rescue mission that lasted for 58 hours and captivated the nation. Two years later, in 1989, a made-for-TV movie called Everybody's Baby: The Rescue of Jessica McClure was released, chronicling the events of those two days. The movie opens with a scene of Jessica (played by a baby named Cheyenne Robert) playing in her backyard while her mother, Cissy (Patty Duke), watches nearby. The idyllic scene is shattered when Jessica falls into a narrow well pipe that had been left uncovered. The rest of the movie centers on the efforts of the rescuers who worked tirelessly to free Jessica from the well. Though Everybody's Baby has a star-studded cast (including Beau Bridges as the lead rescuer, Pat Hingle as the town's mayor, and Roxana Zal as a news reporter), the movie's focus is on the community of Midland and the various individuals who came together to help save Jessica. The film carefully portrays the numerous difficulties that the rescuers faced over the course of the mission, from the narrowness of the well pipe to the unstable soil surrounding the well. One of the standout aspects of Everybody's Baby is the way in which it emphasizes the humanity of the rescuers. Rather than being depicted as flawless heroes, the film shows them struggling with the moral dilemma of how much risk to take in order to save Jessica. Bridges's character, "Chip" St. Clair, is particularly conflicted, vacillating between caution and a burning desire to get the little girl out of the well as soon as possible. At its core, Everybody's Baby is a tribute to the power of community and the strength of human endurance. Throughout the film, Midland residents come together to offer support and prayers for Jessica and her family. One poignant moment shows a group of workers taking turns singing hymns into the well in hopes of comforting the trapped toddler. The film's portrayal of the rescue mission as a collective effort is a refreshing change from the typical Hollywood narrative of a single hero saving the day. Despite its focus on community, however, Everybody's Baby doesn't shy away from depicting the horrors of Jessica's entrapment. In addition to the physical danger posed by the well, the movie also shows the emotional toll that the situation takes on Jessica's parents (particularly her mother) and on the rescuers themselves. As the mission drags on, tensions rise, and the film doesn't shy away from showing the frustration and exhaustion of those involved. The performances in Everybody's Baby are strong across the board. Bridges brings a sense of urgency and moral complexity to his role as Chip, while Zal is convincing as a reporter struggling between her journalistic duty and her emotional involvement in the story. Duke is particularly affecting as Cissy McClure, providing an emotional anchor for the film as the worried mother waiting for news about her child. In terms of direction and production values, Everybody's Baby is serviceable but not particularly noteworthy. There are a few tense sequences that are well-executed, but for the most part, the movie relies on the inherent drama of the situation rather than flashy camerawork or special effects. Similarly, the score is fairly generic, but it gets the job done by providing emotional cues when necessary. Overall, Everybody's Baby: The Rescue of Jessica McClure is a well-made and emotionally resonant film. By focusing on the community spirit that drove the rescue mission, it avoids the pitfall of sensationalizing a real-life tragedy for the sake of drama. While the subject matter is undeniably dark, the film ultimately finds hope and inspiration in the triumph of the human spirit.