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It's one of those Saturday nights you decided not to go out to the bar.
It's near midnight and you're flipping through the pay cable stations
because you don't care to watch another rerun of Saturday Night Live.
You come across a movie from the early 80's that sounds like a really
bad TV movie. (A side note, I believe the true story that inspired this
film also inspired a god-awful TV movie starring Christopher Reeve that
I caught on Lifetime one Sunday afternoon while I was nursing a
hang-over). Instead, 'Without a Trace' turns out to be one of those
hidden gems you come across at just such odd times once in a blue moon.
It's one of those films that makes you wonder how many other 'lost
classics' are lurking out there amongst the overbearing weight of the
tripe Hollywood typically puts out.
Kate Nelligan and Judd Hirsch deliver Oscar-caliber performances as the mother who won't accept her son is gone and the hardworking detective who takes a personal interest in the frustrating kidnapping case. This is one of those films that gives us an intimate look at one person's loss, how it effects those around them, and also provides a touching glimpse into the family of a cop trying to recover that person's loss. This was producer Stanley Jaffe's first and only foray into directing, and it's a shame, since he clearly delivered the goods here. There are two great scenes that play both as thrilling and heartbreaking that showcase just how capable and beautifully understated a director Jaffe was:
1. The night after the six-year old is kidnapped, the camera pans up from his discarded pajama top lying on the bathroom floor to his mother (Nelligan) having her first breakdown in the bathtub. It's a wonderful scene that is all at once chilling, gut-wrenching, and emotional resonant. 2. Nelligan retires to her bedroom and turns out all the lights. Everything is silent. All the audience sees is pitch black. It seems like this unfathomably dark silence could last forever. We the audience are put on the edge of our seats. Then the silence in broken. Nelligan begins to pray.
This is true tear jerker that I believe has probably been dismissed over the years because of the alleged all too happy 'Hollywood' ending that was tacked on. The true story that inspired this film didn't end so happily, but this was never meant to be a documentary. This is a movie that is designed to give people (especially parents) a sense of hope in a world gone mad, and I suspect it would especially connect with audiences today in the wake of all the high profile child abduction cases of late (i.e. the Smart case). The ending is beautifully executed and truly uplifting, and had the film not ended this way, the film would've been one of the bleakest, most depressing films ever made, and I fear I would've not been able to sleep that night. We all know how tragically things could've ended. All we need to do is look at the real world to see that and get depressed. This movie took a chance and decided to give us hope, and that is neither untrue or contrived, that is a stroke of genius.
When all is said and done, 'Without a Trace' is a great movie that deserves to be uttered in the same breath as 'Kramer vs. Kramer' and 'Ordinary People.' It makes more recent kidnap flicks (like Ron Howard's egregious thriller 'Ransom', and the pitifully hokey 'The Deep End of the Ocean') come across as terribly manipulative and untrue. Not to be missed. (Another side note: Where's the DVD? They seem to put every piece of crap ever produced on DVD these days, so why not this, something that is actually good and worthwhile and would connect deeply with audiences?)
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
OK, get a BOX of tissue before you sit and watch this film, you'll need it. Every parent's nightmare is brought to life in this tale of a missing child... "Without A Trace." Kate Nelligan is WONDERFUL as the grieving mother who's hope is put to the test. This movie takes you on a journey of your emotions, from the discovery of the child's disappearance, the pain and agony of the mother, the sudden loss of hope, and the INCREDIBLE, heart-tugging ending that leaves you with the biggest smile and teary eyes. I have NEVER seen a more satisfying ending to ANY movie than this one. Every time I watch it, I cry all over. This movie will forever hold a dear place in my heart.
I can't believe that a movie could cause such an emotional upheaval in my body. I cried because the character development between the boy and his mother was very good. Judd Hirsch did a great job as the detective willing to go out on a limb for the mother. This was a good movie back in 1983 and still a good video to watch.
One of the best lines as Kate Nelligan portrays Susan Selky, a
professor in NYC whose son has been abducted, and possibly murdered.
Nelligan is outstanding as a frustrated and angry mother whose son one day simply disappears after she sees him off on the school bus.
There are a few surprises here. Judd Hirsch is very good as Detective Minetti, although the story does go off tangent a bit with his family life. David Dukes portrays her estranged husband, who is initially suspected of abducting his own son.
Stockard Channing also has a small part as Selky's friend. When she attempts to talk Susan into the platitude : ..."picking up your bootstraps and move on"..., Susan (Nelligan) becomes enraged, telling her she cannot have a clue as to how this feels. A very powerful scene, and relevant to anyone who has experienced a horrible loss, and doesn't know how to cope.
Overall this is a good film with a few tangents, but well worth a view. 8/10.
A bit contrived, yes, but exceptional performances by Judd Hirsch and Kate
Nelligan. The pain and desperation just radiates from Nelligan. As a
I can't even imagine what it must have took to just keep
The ending is emotionally thrilling. if you don't have an enormous lump in your throat, and tears in your eyes.......
Kate Nelligan, always a forthright and gripping actress, gets to show many different sides as a single mother in New York City whose little boy disappears one day while walking a short distance to school; she clashes with authorities and friends, but is convinced her child has been kidnapped and is still alive. These type of human dramas are all pretty much the same, but if the extremities pull you in, they are undeniably absorbing. There's a horribly facetious sub-plot about a homosexual suspect (who seems to be rendered guilty by virtue of his fetishes), but Nelligan gives the familiar theme her class and ladylike vigor, making it fresher than most, and she's helped by other good actors like Judd Hirsch, Stockard Channing and David Dukes. The film is ultimately hurt by its clichés (especially when dealing second-handedly with police lieutenant Hirsch's family life); and as for the climax, it'll either strike you as very emotional or incredibly hokey and over-the-top. ** from ****
I won't go into the specifics of the movie as many other here have
already done that. To those that were wondering about the DVD - It is
out on DVD now. I think it came out in March 2005. I bought it as soon
as it became available.
Another thing. This movie is widely known as being based on real events. It may or may not be but we know it is based on a novel by Beth Gutcheon called "Still Missing". Whether that novel is based on a actual event I can't say for sure.
There was one comment here by someone who said the movie was no good. I don't know what movie she was watching as it sure wasn't this one. She said the houseboy cut himself shaving or something to that affect. Not true. This tells me she didn't watch the movie very closely.
To end this I will just say 'Without A Trace' is one of my favorite movies of all time. Top 10? Maybe not but it is up there. Great, I mean really great acting by Kate Nelligan and Judd Hirsch. David Dukes and Stockard Channing really flex their acting muscles here as well.
This movie leaves me crying and heaving. The strong, strong performance by Kate Nelligan warranted an academy award. The range of motions she expressed - anger, fear, love, - and finally, joy. Judd Hirsch, equally strong in the sometimes undermanding role of the cop. David Dukes is probably the most unappreciated performance. I have seen it many times, but this last time I watched him and the emotion, his pain showed through as well as Nelligan's. A classic.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I haven't seen this movie for years, but I think about it whenever I
hear of a news story where a child goes missing.
If I live to be 100, I will never forget the final scene of this movie *** don't read any further if you intend to see it *** Judd Hirsch had located the kid after years of detective work, and was bringing him home (un-known to his mother)in his squad car. As I recall, he had the lights and siren moving (I might be wrong on this point) as he believed that getting this child back in the arms of his mom was that important (it was).
The mother was walking down the street with a bag of groceries, going about her daily life without her son. As she approached her flat, a police car screeched to a stop out front. Wondering what the commotion was about, she looked down the street to see her little boy emerge from the driver's seat of the police cruiser. It took a moment for it all to register, but when she realized that the kid was her long lost child, she threw the sack of groceries on the ground (the groceries scattered everywhere) and ran as fast as she could to hug her child, grabbing him in an embrace that threatened to squeeze the air out of him.
It was one of the most powerful, riveting, happy and joyous movie endings I have ever seen, and I cried like a baby during that final scene. To this day, that movie still brings tears to my eyes. I wish all child abduction cases would end like this.
From screenwriter and original novelist Beth Gutcheon(novel entitled
"Still Missing")comes "Without a Trace", which tells the story of a
little six year old boy who leaves for school one morning and then
The film starts slowly but picks up the tension as it moves along. Producer and one-time director Stanley R. Jaffe tries to use quiet moments early in the film; but for me they did not work. Later, as the movie gets going, it becomes moving and thought provoking. A clever and touching finale, along with solid performances from the under-rated Kate Nelligan, the magnificent Judd Hirsch and David Dukes, make the film worthwhile.
Sunday, February 10, 1991 - Video
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