Coping with a child's illness can be difficult for any parent, but when your child is diagnosed with a life-threatening disease, the challenges only multiply.
Expenses, changes in lifestyle, and emotional highs and lows are just a few of the difficulties Jill and Matt Heaps face on a daily basis since their eight-month-old daughter, Emily, was diagnosed with Severe Combined Immunodeficiency (SCID).
SCID is a rare immune disorder that affects an infant's ability to fight off infection. The most common form of the disease is linked to the X chromosome and is passed on from mothers to sons, but the form affecting Emily results when both mother and father carry a recessive gene.
The chances of this happening are one in a million. When two carriers have children, the odds of the disease appearing are one in four.
If not identified early, SCID is often fatal within the first year, but the disease can be treated successfully with early diagnosis. Luckily, Emily was diagnosed at seven weeks after a series of infections required hospitalization and an endless array of tests.
At just two months of age Emily received a bone marrow transplant from her six-year-old sister. Afterward, Emily spent a month in recovery at the Ronald McDonald House in Salt Lake City.
Jill stayed with her during the week, and Matt went up on the weekends so Jill could come home and be with their other two children.
Before they could bring Emily home, the Heaps family had to make some major adjustments to their way of life.
"We did a lot of reading, and spent a lot of time talking with doctors," said Jill. "We had to have everything in the house cleaned before she could come home."
Now, Jill must clean and dust the house every day. Frequent hand washing has become a necessity, and their six-year-old must change her clothes when she comes home from school.
All visitors must be sprayed with disinfectant to keep outside germs away. If the other children get sick, they stay in their rooms until they recover.
Because Emily cannot be taken out to public places, walks and car rides - and trips to the doctor - are the extent of her contact with the outside world.
There have been many who have stepped in to offer help and support along the way, including Micah Merrill, producer of the new feature film, "Charly."
Merrill approached the Heaps family with an offer to donate the proceeds of the film's premiere to help with Emily's medical bills. The family agreed.
The producer explained that it's a common practice for filmmakers to donate opening night earnings to a worthy cause.
"The Heaps live in my neighborhood and they're friends of mine. I thought it might be nice to choose them instead of a random charity," he said.
"Charly," based on the book by Jack Weyland, debuted at the Jordon Commons theater complex in Sandy on Sept. 26. Proceeds from opening night were approximately $10,000.
"We want to express how grateful we are for the support we've received," said Jill.
She cited one friend, a professional nanny, who volunteered her services to stay with their older children while Emily was recovering at the Ronald McDonald House.
Another woman comes in once a week to watch Emily so Matt and Jill can take their children out for a night.
"In some ways we feel like she's a community baby with the prayers and support of all our neighbors," said Matt.
For the now, the family is taking things day by day.
"Our ultimate goal is for Emily to have a normal life. She's very active and has changed so much. She used to look so sickly," said Jill.
Those who would like to donate to the Emily Heaps fund can do so at the Utah Community Credit Union under her name.
This story appeared in New Utah on page 1.
Charly had one thing going against it from the very beginning. Its original author is Jack Weyland, who, despite his popularity among LDS youth, is a hopelessly unoriginal writer.
That translates well to the film version of his oddly beloved 1980 novel Charly. In spite of some solid first-time directing from Adam Thomas Anderegg, and a gorgeously fresh-faced performance from Salt Lake actress/journalist Heather Beers, Charly the movie comes off as emotionally manipulative and sadly imitative of innumerable past Love Story derisions.
Pretty and impetuous Charly, visiting from New York, meets Sam (Jeremy Elliott) right off the bat as she flies into Salt Lake City to visit her decidedly non-LDS parents. In spite of Sam's hopelessly boring attitude and painfully conservative nuances, Charly finds herself falling for Sam, and even more dramatic, gaining interest in the LDS Church.
Sam finds himself falling for a woman with (gasp!) a past. And even though it's not the way the stiff returned missionary always dreamed it would be, he's truly in love with the liberal, intellectual girl who loves to start water fights and publicly humiliate people.
This romance gives birth to one of the saddest, most singularly depressing, and emotionally manipulative tragic love story endings I have ever seen. It's one thing to make your audience a little misty eyed. But to drag them through the mud with so much extra depressing material is too much.
In fact, screenwriter Janine Whetten Gilbert and Anderegg seem so intent on dragging out Charly's tragic story that they leave out key elements in any religious-conversion story that could have strengthened the drama and given it more credibility.
For example, in spite of the fact that Charly's parents howl with frustration as Charly investigates the LDS church, they seem to conveniently fade into the background when she is baptized, and we never hear from them again. The struggle is generally more intense than that, and a lifelong relationship of tension often develops as a result of such a break with family tradition. Her conversion against her parents wishes, as a whole, is entirely too easy and lacks the drama and resistance that such a change usually produces.
Elliott's performance as Sam is rather dull, and as a character, he fades so seamlessly into the background that you have to wonder if Charly didn't just have a big love affair with herself. Beer's performance is largely without fault; but her character has trouble developing smoothly; Charly is supposed to be a quick-witted, slightly naughty, and highly saucy young woman. But some of the material she is given, such as teasing Sam over a drug-store intercom, makes her come off as just juvenile -- in a 13-year-old sort of way. And the syrupy, ineffective score could have used a shot of energy as well.
In spite of the movie's inherent focus on Charly's oddities and sense of humor, the film as a whole still suffers from a sore lack of comic relief. Too bad, since there's so much humor to be found in the exaggerated Utah culture that has sprung up in the midst of the Mormon religion.
With that in mind, it is Anderegg's first go at directing here, and he isn't without talent. He pulls off a religious and familial intimacy rarely seen in film, and finds a way of speaking effectively to his target audience. Beers, in spite of being given weak material, finds a way to make her character sparkle with natural radiance. And, I must admit, this is a rare case in which the movie was actually better than the book.
Still, unsuspecting people should, in all fairness, be warned that the film drags out it's depressing last segment to an almost unbearable extent. If you're sensitive about this kind of thing, you should avoid it. It's emotional manipulation, doled out with the idea that making the audience cry will somehow make them think it's a good movie, is just too much. This is truly the most headache-inducingly melancholy film I have seen in a long time.
Bottom Line: Better than the book. C+.
Best Big-Screen Debut: Heather Beers, "Jack Weyland's Charly"
Best Breakthrough Performance: Tobey Maguire, "Spider-Man"
Worst Breakthrough Performance: Vin Diesel, "xXx"
Worst Comeback Performance: Harrison Ford, "K-19: The Widowmaker"
The premiere of the LDS-themed drama "Charly" raised nearly $5,000 for an 8-month-old Lehi girl suffering a rare immunodeficiency disorder.
Proceeds from the premiere of "Charly," Sept. 26 at the Megaplex 17 at Jordan Commons, went to pay the medical bills of Emily Heaps. The girl suffers from Sudden Combined Immunodeficiency (SCID), which means she was born without an immune system. Matt and Jill Heaps, Emily's parents and neighbors of "Charly" producer Micah Merrill, attended the premiere.
More than 2,000 people also took a ride on a 90-foot Ferris wheel (a key symbol in the movie) erected in the Mayan parking lot all weekend. Procees from ride tickets also went to Emily's medical fund.
People tend to look at Heather Beers when she runs her errands or goes out to dinner. It started a few weeks ago, with the release of "Charly."
Beers plays the title role.
"I was at a restaurant last week, and I had a cute little family from Idaho Falls come up," said Beers, 32 and a native of Brigham City.
"I think they were happy to see I was not dead."
Charly starts the film as a vibrant, spontaneous character, a non-Mormon shaking up the well-ordered world of the LDS Sam, who becomes her unlikely love interest. Later in the film, Charly battles a serious medical condition.
In real life, Beers is the mother of two young children and runs a Salt Lake City public relations agency with her husband. She has acted in commercials and on episodic television, and has loved acting since childhood.
"I don't always look that good when I'm running errands," she added with a laugh. "I don't exactly have a stylist to prepare me for the day."
"Charly" is a small independent film with a low profile in Hollywood terms. However, its profile couldn't be much higher in Utah, Idaho and other Western states with significant populations of members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
"The book has such a big fan base," Beers said. "Two generations of people love it. I read the book in the "80s, and I loved it. It wasn't until I got the opportunity to play the title character that I realized, 'There's a lot of room for failure here. I don't want to sour the people who loved the book.' "
Winning the part
Beers learned of the audition from her agent. When she arrived, it was to a roomful of Charly hopefuls.
"I had read the book as a teenager," she said. "It was such a fun part, but actors know there are auditions for a lot of fun parts you don't get. I went in with confidence and hope, but I was realistic about it."
Beers was attracted to Charly's strength and spunkiness, she said.
"She is definitely strong-willed, and she likes to have life figured out, but she accepts the fact that she may not have everything figured out . . . She cares about the people around her, but she also has fun with life and does not take everything seriously. She's a complex character, and the challenge was building those complexities into the character without making it look like I was trying that hard."
Beers said she was called back four or five times before she learned the role was hers. Asked what had set her apart, Beers went shy.
"It's embarrassing. But I think what they did say was that I showed them more depth in the character than they had envisioned, or maybe I had a different take on Charly that made them realize the part could be different than they had thought. Maybe my own level of insanity crept in. Whatever it was, it worked."
Happy in Utah
Since the "Charly" opening in September, several critics have singled out Beers' portrayal of Charly as the film's greatest strength.
"It's just a big relief," the actress said. "There was a lot of pressure."
Her favorite things about "Charly," Beers said, are the timeless love story and universal themes.
"What the film does a good job of is showing both Sam's journey and Charly's journey," she said. "What is the meaning of love? How long can it last? I think that is why most people who go to the film walk away touched. All of us hope the good this life can bring will last forever."
Beers said she's also impressed by the quality of the film's cinematography and musical score.
"Especially on the budget they had, 'Charly' looks and feels like a pretty rich film. For the money, this film is better than it should be."
Beers said she's happy acting part time in Utah rather than full time in Los Angeles or New York.
"I like the quietness of life here," she said. "People have been kind. There are so many things I want to pursue besides acting. I love marketing, and I write for Utah Business and Salt Lake magazine. I want to praise my family for supporting me in this (acting) dream I have had since I was young. My husband has supported me in all the interests I pursue.
"Acting is something I love," says Beers, "but it's not the only thing I love."
Jack Weyland's Charly * * [2 stars out of 4]
The 1980 Mormon tearjerker gets a feature film treatment that demonstrates what can go most wrong with tearjerkers and with Mormon movies. Jeremy Elliott plays stolid young devout Mormon Sam; Heather Beers takes on the title role, a free-spirited New York Gentile. When Charly comes to visit family in Utah, they meet-cute, fall in love, she converts, he loosens up and heartbreaks follow. The standard-issue melodrama and forced whimsy are frustrating (if predictable) enough. What's even more frustrating (if equally predictable) is watching yet another LDS narrative turn into an exercise in serene hand-holding. The conflict carries all the kick of a Little Leaguer booting second base, because this story by the faithful and for the faithful isn't about asking hard questions. Beers' spunky, genuinely emotional performance at least ensures that Charly herself has plenty of life. The film that bears her name is always waiting for something better from the next life. (PG) --SR
Salt Lake City, UT -- The holiday weekend brought moviegoers out in full force to see "Jack Weyland's Charly." According to numbers released by box-office tracker AC Neilsen EDI, box office receipts for "Charly" on Monday night were up 55% over the previous week's Monday night.
These latest box office figures confirm that "Charly" is defying the Hollywood trend that says box office receipts generally decrease dramatically in the first few weeks after a film opens.
Word of mouth buzz around the film is high. Based on the best-selling novel, Charly, by Jack Weyland, the film is striking a chord with movie-goers along the Wasatch Front.
The story centers around the up and down relationship between Sam, a likeable if somewhat uptight Mormon boy, and Charly, a vibrant, sophisticated and beautiful New Yorker who comes to Utah unsure of what she might find. What seems to be drawing most moviegoers in is the unlikely love story and the subsequent crisis of faith that embroils both Charly and Sam.
Also charming moviegoers is the breakthrough performance from lead actress Heather Beers, who plays Charly in her first major role in a feature film. Steve Salles of the Standard Examiner called Beers "the perfect Charly" and Sean Means of the Salt Lake Tribune said that "Beers shows impressive range as she conveys Charly's exuberance, joy and quiet intensity."
Mary Jane Jones
Media Relations, Excel Entertainment Group
The last several years have seen an unprecedented surge in LDS produced feature films. This long overdue trend has been made even more enjoyable since both the quantity and quality of films has increased. Two recent films "Charly," based on LDS author Jack Weyland's popular novel and "Handcart" based on the ill-fated Martin Company's trek during the winter of 1856 do little to elevate this trend and one of the films in fact, takes whatever positive momentum these small budget/grand vision films have stirred and smashes it to smithereens.
"Charly" has two main story lines and doing justice to both may have been too big a bite for first time director Adam Thomas Anderegg. The first half of the movie concerns free-spirited New Yorker Charlene Riley (Heather Beers) coming to Salt Lake City and being chauffeured by the less-than-excited Sam Robertson (Jeremy Elliot) a nerdy, devout LDS single male who only agrees to the chore on the bribe of his father who offers cash and a convertible.
And so begins the couple's formulaic romance where Charly seems curiously drawn to Sam's old-fashioned values and Sam appears intrigued by her feistiness. (It doesn't hurt that she is clearly the cutest woman in his world). Beers does a fine job of displaying her East Coast zest but is somewhat handicapped by looking too patently Mormon to begin with. This part of the film is sweetly developed but prompts more questions than it answers. We aren't shown exactly why she makes her predictable conversion, what her parents have against Mormons, and why Sam in all their time together never asks her about her past (except that is was a necessary oversight in order to provide the movie's biggest conflict). The best performances, since they seem the most genuine are actually turned in by the supporting cast including Jackie Winterrose-Fullerup as Charly's wise grandmother and Adam Johnson (with a strong resemblance to Kenneth Brannagh) as the boyfriend she leaves behind in NYC.
When the story veers into movie-made-for-TV territory with its fatal disease plot development, "Charly" will divide its audience in two separate groups, those reaching for more tissues and those begging for mercy at the all-too-familiar descent known as movie manipulation. The surprise for those who hang in there is the brief but powerful examination of a spiritual conundrum: What happens when unflinching faith does not produce the promised results? "Charly" ultimately seems like two unfinished movies, one lacking the development of its characters, the other underdeveloping its thought provoking principles. In this case, two halves make an uneven but likable whole.
If you thought the 1,300 mile journey west made by the early pioneers was long, painful and fraught with disappointment wait until you witness the train-wreck that is "Handcart." This movie does just about everything a film could to make the historic Mormon trek seem inconsequential and flat out dull.
Distracting accents, bad wigs, annoying camera work, inaccurate historical renderings (the Martin Handcart co. featured here looks like a puny pack of dissenters rather than the true throng of nearly 600 who buried upwards of 25 percent on the trail) coupled with a pace that would make Job scream add up to a feature film that, while well intentioned, would be an embarrassment should it be viewed as an expose regarding one of the most significant events in not only LDS, but American history. A real head shaker.
Mad About Movies grades: "Charly" Grade "B-." Rated PG for brief violence and mild vulgarity. "Handcart" Grade "D-." (Not officially rated, but probably would be a "PG.")
VARIOUS ARTISTS, "Charly: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack" (Cinergy Records)
*** 1/2 [3 1/2 out of 4 stars]
"Charly," the movie, may be getting mixed reviews. But "Charly," the album, has a lot going for it.
The music, composed for the film primarily by newcomer Aaron Merrill (with some help from Cherie Call, Jeremy Elliott, Brett Raymond, Cassey Golie, Alex Boye and Alexander E. Jenkins), features a mix of styles and genres from pop to jazz, with a bit of rap thrown in.
The CD is divided into two sections, the first part a collection of songs and the second of instrumental tracks.
Jenny Jordan brings tender emotion to "A Heartbeat Away" in both the initial offering and the reprise. Raymond nails the bluesy/jazzy "Got a Thing for You." Same goes for his "This Craziness Is Love."
Call's "Restless Soul" has a pretty melody, but her punchy delivery is also effective. "Living Out Loud" by Golie and "Cold Hard Streets" from Boye are filled with energy.
The soundtrack section works nicely as a tone poem of sorts. Mostly, it has a fanciful feel, light and airy, but with some depth. The flow is interrupted a bit in a few places, but overall it makes for nice, easy listening.
Knowing the movie's storyline can give the music a meaningful context, but this is also a CD that stands on its own.
As members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Mormons are building a culture that reflects their gospel convictions. They don't drink alcohol or coffee, they refrain from cigarette use, and they generally don't spend money on Sundays. Their males flaunt mostly clean-shaven faces, most of their women don't wear mini-skirts or sleeveless tank-tops, and a good portion of them give up 18 months to two years off preaching somewhere, often in foreign tongues.
In recent years, however, it may be observed that Mormonism has become increasingly commercialized. Their gospel has been pulled from its hallowed place on the Pedestal of Inviolability and placed in assorted shapes and sizes in bookstores, cd shops, and on Web sites.
Ever seen the t-shirts that take a Nike swoop and turn it into Moroni blowing his trumpet? Or heard Jericho Road wail out their squeaky cleanness against a backdrop of LDS themes? How about the little Book of Mormon action figures (of which Nephi seems to be the favorite)? Then there's "Charly", "Handcart", "God's Army", "Brigham City", "The Other Side of Heaven", and the soon-to-be-released remake of Johnny Lingo. View Photos of LDS Singles at ldsmingle.com, or name your Utah baby at geocities.com/Heartland/3450/, or adopt a curelom at mormonzone.com.
There's Mormon fiction (e.g. The Work and the Glory), Mormon music (i.e. Julie de Azevedo), Mormon movies (ex. Singles Ward), Mormon art (see Greg Olsen), and Mormon software (re: 'LDS Temples' screensaver).
There are entire stores devoted solely to Mormon missionary products.
Latter-day Saints enjoy CTR rings, Young Women's values bracelets, Child of God lockets, Nauvoo Sun charms, necklaces, key rings, and dog tags.
You name it, the Mormons make it.
Church history buff? Try the Kirtland Temple Interactive CD-ROM.
Want to spice up a handout for Sunday school? No problem -- sample one of the almost sixty LDS clipart programs at Deseret Book.
Looking for ways to find an eternal mate? There are almost 140 Mormon romance titles available online.
But in the middle of this LDS shopper's dream, one must face the question: when is it going too far?
How about when it is shocking to discover that a member of the Church, baptized at age 8, never (don't say it!) owned (please, no!) a CTR (stop, stop!) ring (gasp!)?
Or when someone has never heard of Gerald Lund and people say, Seriously? No way!
Or when people put off regular scripture study because they're reading other "church books" (i.e. The Porter Rockwell Chronicles)?
The moment Latter-day Saints begin to equate church membership or standing or doctrine with Mormon products is the moment the gospel has become lost behind a pile of CDs, cassettes, posters, books, jewelry, t-shirts, and Nephite action figures.
For the most part, Mormon commercialization is okay. Indeed, it is part of creating a culture.
But the most important part of that culture -- namely, the pure and simple gospel of Jesus Christ -- must never lose its front and center place.