Lindsay Wagner is Janet, the daughter of Emily Miller (Olympia Dukakis) a 75 year old former teacher who is becoming less independent as she gets older. A broken hip, the death of her best friend Henny Dutton (Jean Stapleton), and a burglary where she confronts the thief all contribute to Emily's deteriorating spirit. Janet takes her mother to live with her family, but things aren't easy.
Wagner doesn't shy away from the challenge of Dukakis or Edward Herrmann as her failed brother Robert, even if she doesn't look like a relative of either and their theater backgrounds make their acting choices larger than Wagner. However their bigness works for their characters who have more dimension than Janet who is arrogant superiority and anger shrouded in martyrdom. Wearing her hair partly tied in a bun to suggest her control and intellectualism, Wagner is best when chiding her husband Richard (Ray Wise) about his inability to serve food at a party that she has prepared. A scene when Emily and Janet look at a retirement home shows the difference in mugging between Dukakis and Wagner, with Dukakis underplaying her horror and Wagner wide-eyed reacting to Dukakis.
The teleplay by David J Hill explains the title as what Emily's deceased husband Arthur (George Hearn) says she means to him, and Hill opens with the scene that he concludes with, so the outcome is telegraphed. Character delineation is evident in an exchange between Janet and Emily, where Janet tells her `I'm trying to help you' and Emily replies `Right into the next world'.
Director David Jones may have gone overboard with Dukakis' aging makeup, it's a shame Stapleton is killed off so quickly, and he uses black and white footage for Emily's flashbacks which turn to color by the end.
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