Based on a telemovie, The Fourth Wish is dated and feeble. It’s mostly held together by John Meillon’s strong performance as a working sole parent whose 12 year-old son, Sean (Robert Bettles), is diagnosed with leukemia.Unfortunately Bettles doesn’t seem much different when he’s sick from when he’s perfectly well. Casey tries to grant his son three wishes - a dog, time with his mother (Robyn Nevin is effective despite having to portray an unlikely drunken tart) and meeting the Queen! This is 1976, after all. Don Chaffey’s direction is competent but undistinguished and the syrupy score (Tristram Cary) and drab production design (David Copping) only hampers the film further.
Worst of all are the improbabilities of actor Michael Craig’s plot, which leave Casey looking like an idiot most of the time, refusing to reveal his son’s illness at times when it would obviously assist him. Craig’s characters are functionaries rather than people, like the journalist who virtually appears from nowhere and vanishes almost as quickly. But Meillon makes Casey’s frustration believable and not overly sentimental, even if his view of the legal and medical professions seems warped.
This kind of film - where we’re led to believe there’s no one to help and everyone’s out to get you, arguably does more harm than good. Certainly the low-key ending leaves you wondering how Casey can hope to fill the void in his life - fulfilling his son’s wishes doesn’t seem to have had much effect on him and he seems destined for suicide or the gutter.As it is, The Fourth Wish retains the rushed feel of a telemovie and it’s hard to see why they bothered making it into a film.