Interest in health and healing is at an all-time high in our culture today. Because doctors cannot always cure sickness, despite the sophistication of modern technology and drugs, more people are trying non-medical methods of healing. A movement called holistic health stresses people's responsibility for their own well being, asserting that individuals should monitor their nutrition and personal hygiene habits and pay attention to body awareness, behavior control and stress management.
Another dimension of this phenomenon is the wide variety of healers available to the sick. According to a 1978 Gallup Poll, there are about 10 million Americans (7% of the population) who practice "faith healing." These caretakers describe their work as "prayer" and attribute success to the intervention of God. There are other healers who work wonders without attaching any religious labels to their cures. They talk about using magnetism and manipulating the electrical forces of the body. Others believe that they can unite their consciousness with that of the patient and set into motion a force in the healer's mind which causes restoration of health.
Resurrection is a very timely film in that it deals with health, sickness, healers (religious and non-religious), and the interest science has in this whole phenomenon. On a purely emotional level, this movie forces viewers to come to terms with their feelings about death, love, community, spirituality, and self-repair. Resurrection was written by Lewis John Carlino (The Great Santini) and directed by Daniel Petrie ("Sybil") The care and concern of these creative individuals is evident in every frame of the movie. They have done extensive research on psychic healing and the controversies which surround it. Thanks to a stirring and remarkable performance by Ellen Burstyn, Resurrection lingers in the mind and heart long after the closing credits.
Edna McCauley (Ellen Burstyn) lives in Los Angeles with Joe (Jeffrey DeMunn), her husband of seven years. On this 39th birthday, she gives him a new car. On its first run, they have an accident; he is killed and she is paralyzed from the thighs down.
Edna has a life-after-life experience, a vision in which she sees deceased people she's known helping her to a place of light. When she returns to consciousness in the hospital, her widowed father John (Roberts Blossom) is there to offer a place to recuperate her childhood home in Kansas. Traveling there, they make a stop at a gas station in the desert. The proprietor, Esco (Richard Farnsworth), is an eccentric man who senses something unusual about Edna. His blessing deeply affects her.
At a family picnic in Kansas, Edna's niece develops a bad nosebleed. Her parents panic she's a bleeder. Edna puts her hand on the girl and comforts her. The bleeding miraculously stops. Later Grandma Pearl (Eva LeGallienne) tells about a friend who lived after being declared clinically dead and had "power" to heal others. Edna decides to try to cure her legs. She succeeds, much to the local doctor's shock. Another incident confirms her power she stops the flow of blood from Cal Carpenter's (Sam Shepard) stab wound.
People in the community gather at a meeting and watch Edna restore the hearing of a man deaf for years. However, Cal's father Earl (Richard Hamilton), a fundamentalist lay preacher, claims that her gifts must be demonic since she doesn't attribute the healings to God. When she and Cal begin a sexual relationship, Edna arouses the ire of her Puritanical father. Cal suggests that she use a little Scripture in order to quell criticism of her work. At her next healing, Edna explains that her acts are generated by love and the empathy she has for those who come to her for help.
Two researchers from U.C.L.A. convince Edna to submit to tests in their Los Angeles laboratories. The kinetic power in her hands bends a laser beam, and she miraculously heals the twisted body of a woman suffering from a rare neurological disease. In a trance, Edna's body takes on the patient's limb formations, then releases the symptoms. Afterwards, from the shock, she sinks into a coma during which she has a vision of her father's death. Edna returns to Kansas and expresses her love by helping him face his last moments in peace.
Cal cannot understand why Edna doesn't declare herself as a holy one. His fundamentalist upbringing resurfaces and he decides to force the issue of her power through violence. In front of a crowd, he shoots her. Edna survives but decides its best to leave. Years later, we see her at Esco's gas station still expressing her love for people and celebrating the wonder of life.