He was already rich, but before he became famous, FDR, at the start of his political career, was struck with polio. This is common knowledge today. What is not known, and truly should be, is the struggle he undertook first to cope with, then to master, the disability that would ordinarily have torpedoed his career. Generally underappreciated as an actor, Kenneth Branagh, turns in a brilliant performance in his portrayal of an FDR never really glimpsed before – broken, bitter, depressed, then increasingly hopeful and courageous, and finally, triumphant. Toward the end of this movie, when asked if polio has changed her husband, Eleanor as acted by Cynthia Nixon smiles and says emphatically, “Oh yes… it has.”
An argument can be made that polio made Roosevelt. His quest to walk again brought him into contact with people he would never have otherwise met. Good people of all races, classes, and age. It opened his eyes to the needs of his countrymen, and made him as compassionate as any wildly successful politician can be. Franklin and Eleanor, though their marriage was far from perfect, grew together into America’s first power couple. No longer the arrogant, detached rich boy, he went on to become one of America’s greatest presidents in one of America’s most trying eras, and she one of America’s most influential women. Nearly 60 years later, their legacy is generally ignored. Watch this inspiring, beautifully made movie and you will never forget them.