Warm Springs

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"The greatest challenge FDR faced was the one we never saw."
  • NR
  • 2005
  • 2 hr 1 min
  • 7.4  (3,280)

Warm Springs is a 2005 made-for-television biographical drama film, directed by Joseph Sargent. The movie tells the story of Franklin D. Roosevelt's struggle with polio and his subsequent visits to Warm Springs, Georgia, which was a rehabilitation center for polio patients. It stars Kenneth Branagh as Franklin D. Roosevelt, Cynthia Nixon as Eleanor Roosevelt and David Paymer as Louis Howe.

The movie begins with a young and ambitious FDR, who is the Assistant Secretary of the Navy under President Woodrow Wilson. He is at the peak of his political career when he is struck with paralysis due to polio. FDR's political career appears to be over, and he struggles to adapt to his new physical limitations. His wife, Eleanor, provides him with support and, in a poignant moment, shaves him in the bathtub, a humbling way of reinforcing their marriage vows to each other.

FDR is seeking a way to regain his strength. He hears about a rehabilitation center, called Warm Springs, in rural Georgia that he believes could help him recover. He travels to the center, which is run by a hard-nosed, no-nonsense administrator named Georgia Warm Springs Foundation president, Basil O'Connor (played by Aidan Quinn), and an empathetic doctor named Bennett (Tim Blake Nelson). FDR is initially dismayed at the crude conditions of the center, which is little more than a series of shabby cabins. And, as he tries to regain his strength using swimming therapy, FDR is ostracized by some of the more skeptical patients, who see him as an entitled rich man who is not like them.

Despite this initial hostility, FDR perseveres and gradually gains the trust of his fellow patients, who begin to see him as one of their own. His rehabilitation steadily progresses and he becomes more confident in his future as a politician. During his visits to Warm Springs, FDR becomes politically involved as well, using his newfound platform to lobby Congress for funding to battle the polio epidemic. The attitude towards polio that he sees in Georgia leads him to create a foundation that raises funds for research that ultimately leads to the vaccine against the disease. These efforts will have an impact on his presidency, but that is another story.

Warm Springs is notable for its powerful portrayal of FDR's personal struggles as he grapples with his disability and navigates his new normal. Branagh delivers an excellent performance, seamlessly transforming into FDR by mastering his voice, demeanor and mannerisms. While the story is familiar, his take manages to feel fresh, highlighting how unique Roosevelt's story was.

Cynthia Nixon is splendid as well as Eleanor Roosevelt, the First Lady who looms large and provides invaluable emotional support and encouragement to FDR from afar. Her interactions with Louis Howe (David Paymer), FDR's political advisor, are another highlight.

Joseph Sargent direction provides an emotional and suspenseful atmosphere. He highlights the fraught emotional highs and lows that defined Roosevelt's paralysis, building audience sympathy for characters who struggle with lies outside their control. Nobody believed FDR would ever walk again, and it’s thanks to his son James other influences that he found Warm Springs.

Although Warm Springs is a harrowing tale of personal hardship, it's also ultimately an inspiring one. The movie makes it clear that Franklin D. Roosevelt’s resilience and determination went much further than simply his personal health struggles, and his accomplishments live on to this day. Warm Springs captures the spirit of a remarkable man who wasn't afraid to challenge his limitations and push himself towards greatness.

Warm Springs is a 2005 drama with a runtime of 2 hours and 1 minute. It has received mostly positive reviews from critics and viewers, who have given it an IMDb score of 7.4.

Warm Springs
Where to Watch Warm Springs
Warm Springs is available to watch, stream, download and buy on demand at Hulu, Amazon Prime, Max, Apple TV, Amazon, Google Play and YouTube VOD. Some platforms allow you to rent Warm Springs for a limited time or purchase the movie and download it to your device.
  • Release Date
  • MPAA Rating
  • Runtime
    2 hr 1 min
  • IMDB Rating
    7.4  (3,280)