John Q by Nick Cassavetes: Movie Review

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John Q by Nick Cassavetes: Movie Review

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Table of Contents

  • Introduction
  • John Q: The Immortality of Institutions
  • Financial Inequity and Turmoil in John Q
  • Conclusion


In the movie John Q, John Archibald, a non-violent and morally correct man was led to do immoral acts. John's son, Mikey's, heart had gotten abnormally swollen over time, something that prior doctors could’ve warned the family of, but failed to do so. John Q. believed his insurance could cover his son’s health problem since he had been working for this particular plant for an extended period of time, but the health board did a check on his life savings and said he could not afford it, and they refused to operate on his son unless he got 74 thousand dollars more than he had in his account. Letting people die because they cannot afford to live is also immoral and inhumane, which ends up being the main point of the story. The hospital, as well as many other companies, refused to even help this family against a hospital's ridiculous offer. Although there are great websites like GoFundMe available on the Internet right now that allows people to share their stories, and others to donate if needed, and if they relate to it. However, John Q didn’t have that luxury and had to resort to asking companies, one by one, for help, and each time he was let down. The viewers of the movie can see how far this immorality goes when John Archibald points out how the hospital profits $75 million off of only heart transplants, but they still strictly refuse to help Mikey.

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John Q: The Immortality of Institutions

While many can agree that the primary immorality within the movie arose from the hospital not wanting to overlook Mikey’s heart transplant, and the costs that go along with it, it’s also true that there are other factors of immorality within the movie that prove that society is quickly deteriorating in regard to values and ethics. The first shock came to John Q when he found out that his insurance won’t be covering the heart transplant. This plant he had been working for many years had been giving no more than 20 hours lately, and due to his recent part-time position within the plant, the policies of his insurance had also altered. The immorality of this situation is that institutions feel like they have the right to meddle in people’s lives who have been loyal to the company for numerous years due to the inconsistencies within their company. Additionally, it’s even more unfair that John Q finds out that his health insurance policy had changed at the hospital, when he was expecting it to cover everything. The more ethical action on the company’s part would’ve been letting him know of the policy change when they switched his position from full-time to part-time.

In addition to the hospital asking him a minimum of $75,000 to merely put his son’s name on a list of possible matching donors, John Q experienced being let down by every single company he asked help for. Each and every one of them, including the hospital, overlooked the situation this person is in, and only looked at how financially liable he is, and John Q being not financially liable at all due to his company, the social status he’s forced to be in, and his overall situation, he was refused help every single time. This fact sheds a light upon the cycle of turmoil within society that ensures people like John Q get no help in life, and lead a life of alienation that’s simply filled with ensuring the satisfaction of those who are financially stable.

Financial Inequity and Turmoil in John Q

Even though John Q wasn’t earning the $75,000 deposit as quickly as the hospital demanded, he was quickly gathering funds for his son thanks to the donations of family and friends, as well as his unfaltering hope. However, the hospital was simply not satisfied with the funds they were getting from John Q, which was up to $20,000 at one point, and continuously threatened him with discharging his son if he didn’t get the deposit in time. It was due to these numerous factors explained in the prior paragraphs that John Q was ultimately pushed to do something he would otherwise have never done: obtain a gun, hold up an emergency room, and keep patients and some staff as hostages. He was not taking no for an answer anymore, and he was the one now demanding for his son’s name to be put on that list. Some may argue and say that John Q didn’t have to resort to this crime, and endanger others’ lives, but these debaters also need to remember John Q is a man of values and ethics. Instead of hurting or scaring anyone, he made sure everyone got the care they needed, he released the hostages that needed to be released, and he even opened the gates to allow an injured man in, making sure he lives by forcing an unethical surgeon to fix his injuries. John Q’s actions within the emergency room show to the viewers that the unethical tone set within this movie isn’t due to him holding up an emergency room, but rather due to the inhumane and immoral way that institutions pushed him to take this desperate path.

There’s a scene where Rebecca Payne, the main director within the hospital board, sees on a video that John Q gets shot and killed, and it is than that she is finally convinced that his son actually deserves this heart transplant. It is then that Rebecca Payne finally lists the son’s name on the list, which comes up with a perfect match almost immediately. It’s horrible to think that a loss of life is what it takes for some people to come to a realization. Thankfully though, John Q wasn’t truly killed, as the bullet had missed him.


The John Q film provides its viewers the moral dilemma many are forced to face with because of how society has evolved to revere profits before a human being’s life. John Q never even had bullets in his gun, his only worry was for his son’s life; he was ready to give up his heart if it meant saving his son. Institutions such as the hospital in the film are constantly alienating not only themselves but also the society due to their hunger for profits, and ignorance of human lives. It seems as if the oaths that physicians and doctors take are meaningless; even if these physicians and doctors believe they are fulfilling their oath, it is evident that through their institution that they are, in fact, everyday failing this oath when refusing to help someone in need although they the ability and means to do so.

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