Revolutionary film portraying a young girl, and what happens when the system turns against her
This film broke a lot of ground and receives on the whole a lot less credit than it's due. It touches on a topic that is ever-present in our daily lives, but which is seen as a phenomenon so common that it does not merit discussion. This phenomenon is that of caregivers (be they doctors or, as in "Broken Promise", a senior social worker) who abuse their position in order to harm those they have been charged to protect.
In Broken Promise, Patty Clawson and her family are abandoned by their parents; but are soon picked up by local law enforcement. Faced with the certain prospect of foster care, Patty begs a young social worker to keep her and her brothers and sisters together. This social worker approaches a senior member of another department, but his request is denied.
The children are parcelled off to seperate homes, thereby following the prevailing opinions of the day and ensuring a "clean break." But it is this event, the "broken promise" which gives the film it's name, which causes the dramatic tension that is to continue throughout the film. Angered by the Young Social Worker's apparent betrayal, Patty Clawson runs away from the foster home she has been sent to.
Faced with the daunting task of finding her family in a climate where the ideal is seen to be a complete separation from the past; she does the only the thing she can to ascertain their whereabouts and breaks into the Senior Social Worker's office to steal the casefile.
Apprehended soon after she finds she has made a dangerous enemy. Furious at the embarrassment this little girl has caused him and his department, the Senior Social Worker decides to use his power and authority to destroy her; something that legally he is quite capable of doing.
This topic, of the harm of caregivers to clients, is relatively taboo. It certainly has been touched on very little in films as few directors wish to tread the path that would imply that caregivers cause harm.
I think that this film plays a very important role in making the public more aware of this sort of thing. The case portrayed is not only plausible, but has probably happened many times before to many other children all over the world. This film is critical to changing public opinion in order to get rid of the laws that protect harmful people like the Senior Social Worker in "Broken Promise".
I strongly recommend Broken Promise. It is especially appropriate viewing for trainee social workers, psychiatrists, psychologists, doctors, and other caregiving professions. It is a lesson in avoidance that should be taken to heart.
In terms of the acting in "Broken Promise." Melissa Michaelsen plays a superb part as Patty Clawson. Especially in films such as this believability is critical. If the viewer did not identify with the character of Patty, the whole message of the film would be in jeopardy. It's unfortunate that Melissa doesn't still act in films today, as her performance in "Broken Promise" shows her to have had exceptional talent.
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