Dramatic Analysis of The Film John Q

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About this sample


Words: 1210 |

Pages: 3|

7 min read

Published: Aug 6, 2021

Words: 1210|Pages: 3|7 min read

Published: Aug 6, 2021

Introduction: Nick Cassavetes’ film uses the pentadic structure to establish meaning using the purpose approach. Agent, agency, act, and scene are still present; however, they are not the main focus of the story. John Q perfectly aligns with the dramatic perspective. The purpose of this film review is to conduct a dramatic analysis of John Q, looking at how the concepts of the pentad, and the absolution of guilt serve to justify John’s criminal actions.

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Background: The movie opens up with a woman driving recklessly on a mountain highway. After getting hit by two trucks, she is killed. John Quincy Archibald and his wife Denise witness their young son Michael collapse at his baseball game. After a series of tests at the hospital, John is informed by the doctor that Michael has an enlarged heart and will need a transplant. However because the company he works for dropped John from full-time to part-time, his health insurance has been changed and the new policy does not cover the surgery, leaving them to raise 30% of the $250,000 in order to get their son's name on the donor list. The family tries to raise the money but are barely able to come up with a third of the necessary payment. Eventually the hospital gets tired of waiting and decides to release Michael, this lead Denise to tell John to 'do something.' Thesis statement: Unwilling to let his child die, and with no options left, John goes into the hospital with locks, chains, and a firearm to hold everyone inside hostage. In dealing with Lt. Grimes of the police, John reveals that all he wants is for his son to be put on the donor list to receive a new heart.

After realizing that the police do not care about whether or not John’s son lives, he makes a new demand to get his son to the ER with him. Evidence & citing: Once his son arrives, John reveals to the hostages his intention to commit suicide so his heart can be used to save his son. He persuades Dr. Turner to perform the operation, and two of his hostages bear witness to a will stating his last request. John goes to say his last good-byes to Michael and goes to the operating room. He loads a bullet into the gun and pulls the trigger but the safety is on. As he holds the gun to his own head a second time and prepares to end his life, his wife is told about a woman killed in a car crash, the one from the opening scene, who happens to have the same blood type as Michael, and has been flown to the hospital for organ recovery. She runs to the emergency room and stops John from shooting himself, and John allows the hostages to go free. Michael is given the life-saving operation and, after watching the procedure with Denise, John is taken into police custody.

The pentad, containing the act, agent, agency, scene, and purpose, can be applied to John Q in order to understand why John’s breaking of society’s norms is justified. The act is simply the behavior that breaks societal norms, and in this case the act is clearly John taking everyone in the ER room hostage. Normally, this is something that would not be accepted by society. John ignores the fact that there are other people on the recipient list that are no-less deserving than his son Mike. The agent is the person performing the unlawful behaviour, and this is without a doubt John Archibald. The agency denotes the tools and means that the agent uses. John uses locks and chains to deny his hostages from fleeing and a firearm to keep them under his control. He also uses a telephone to communicate with people outside of the hospital, most often the police. The scene is the hospital, as it is the setting that the behaviour takes place in. The scene is kind or ironic because people go to a hospital to get treated and feel better, but here they are being held hostage at this very sanctuary. The purpose, which is the most vital aspect of the pentad in this film, pertains to the reason the agent engages in rule-breaking behaviour. Commentary: John’s justification for his criminal acts is that he was wronged by the healthcare system. No one was willing to look past the dollar signs and help his son, so he put the lives of others, as well as his own, on the line for the benefit of his fading son. All five aspects of the pentad form the foundation for John’s absolution of guilt.

Topic sentence: The message of the movie is that if a person is put in a difficult enough situation, they will do whatever they have to in order to protect their loved ones. This can be easily seen in this film. Commentary: Throughout the film, John is portrayed as a kind hearted, hard working, and productive member of society. The last thing you would think he would do is take over a hospital at gunpoint. He did what he had to in order to stop his son from dying. This is why the purpose is the most important of the five aspects of the pentad because it justifies his actions. Everything he did was in order to save his young boys life. Even when John took hostages, he was kind to them. John and the eleven hostages communicate and learn more and more about each other. They begin to understand John's situation and support him a little as he ensures each of them receive the treatment they came to the emergency room for. He got them the medical attention they went to the hospital to seek even while they were his “hostages”. Not only were the hostages and huge crowd gathered around the hospital hoping John got what he wanted, myself as the viewer was really hoping he got his son the transplant. The movie got me thinking, if America’s health care system were more like Canada’s, lower income families would not be forced to take desperate actions in desperate situations such as the one portrayed in this film.

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Conclusion paragraph: John Q is a dangerous and heart-felt example of dramatism. It is hard, as a viewer, not to root for John as he takes matters into his own hands. In fact, even his hostages after being released; tell news reporters that John is a great man, a hero of sorts. The viewer even finds out towards the film’s final minutes that John’s firearm was not loaded with ammunition the whole time, and that he never intended on killing anyone. He was just doing what was necessary in order to get the police to meet his demands. The dramatist concept of the pentad can be easily applied to John Q, with the key point being that the purpose of the hostage situation is to get Mike’s name on the heart recipient list. In addition, John’s guilt can be absolved after considering him either motivated by either transcendence (the life of his son), or victim age (the healthcare system failed his family). It is also important to note the potential implications of the film, such as the criticism of the healthcare system of America and the increased vigilantism over there.


  • John Q. Dir. Nick. Cassavetes. N.p., 2002. Film.

Introduction close-button

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Background close-button

Provides a foundational overview, outlining the historical context and introducing key information that will be further explored in the essay, setting the stage for the argument to follow.

Thesis statement close-button

Cornerstone of the essay, presenting the central argument that will be elaborated upon and supported with evidence and analysis throughout the rest of the paper.

Topic sentence close-button

The topic sentence serves as the main point or focus of a paragraph in an essay, summarizing the key idea that will be discussed in that paragraph.

Evidence & citing close-button

The body of each paragraph builds an argument in support of the topic sentence, citing information from sources as evidence.


After each piece of evidence is provided, the author should explain HOW and WHY the evidence supports the claim.

Conclusion paragraph close-button

Should follow a right side up triangle format, meaning, specifics should be mentioned first such as restating the thesis, and then get more broad about the topic at hand. Lastly, leave the reader with something to think about and ponder once they are done reading.

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This essay was reviewed by
Dr. Charlotte Jacobson

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Dramatic Analysis Of The Film John Q. (2021, August 06). GradesFixer. Retrieved February 25, 2024, from
“Dramatic Analysis Of The Film John Q.” GradesFixer, 06 Aug. 2021,
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