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TV movie based on the the story of the kid who divorced his parents. Gregory has lived a rough life. His father abuses him and his two brothers. The boys are placed with the mother. Gregory is placed in a boys ranch after his mother can't take care of him and his two brothers. While at the ranch a lawyer visiting the facility meets him. He and his wife decide to adopt him and make him a part of the family. But Gregory can't be adopted until his biological parents lose custody. He divorces his parents from their rights to him. Written by
Rob Michel <Rmichel424@aol.com>
There was one boy who made a stand and fought for nothing but a place to be. His unprecedented courage stirred public conscience and paved the way for children's rights. Rights - unalienable rights, as they are held self-evident by the Declaration of Independence - that include the Pursuit of Happinesss for every citizen of the United States - even for minors. This boy was in the midst of a legal case that altered the understanding of parental rights and parents' responsibility towards their children. This boy made it clear that all you need is courage and steadfastness, which he badly enough gained from years of suffering and years of neglect; from years of being abandoned and deceived by his natural parents.
This boy is known as Gregory Kingsley. This is his story.
Gregory Kingsley is played by young Joseph Gordon-Levitt. We are introduced to him as he enters his new home at the so-called "Boys' Ranch", a place for kids who are under the custody of Social Services, not because they have done something wrong, but because they have been let down and abandoned. Gregory's story is told in flashbacks, starting with the relationship to his alcoholic and erratic father Ralph (played by Robert Joy). As soon as Ralph was charged with child neglect and abuse, Gregory moved on to his mom, Rachel (Kathleen York), and his two brothers Zachary and Jeremiah. His relationship with his mother is the central theme in this adaptation of his story. Rachel seems to really love her son, but she has lost his trust and proved unable to cope with three children; she broke her promises regularly, and every time Gregory thought it would work out, she let him down and finally broke his heart when she gave him away into foster care.
Then there is George Russ (Bill Smitrovich), head of a family of eight, who visits the Boys' Ranch and gets caught by Gregory and his sadness. He and his wife meet Gregory, develop sympathy and affection for him and decide to become his foster parents. Gregory pins all his hopes on his new family, and as they grow close to each other, the Russes want to adopt the boy. This is challenged by Rachel, who wants her son back under her custody.
Here the story starts, as the time has come for Gregory to take a stand and to bring his own case before the court to terminate all parental rights, so that he can be adopted. What follows is a major struggle for Gregory, as Rachel tries everything to woo him back to her. It is an exchange of charges and counter-charges, a confrontation of highest emotional tension and strain.
The movie itself lives by the outstanding acting performance of Joseph Gordon-Levitt. He makes this struggle for happiness and a place to be so vivid and authentic that the audience can almost feel where this boy's strength comes from. He has a way of expressing so much disillusion and sadness with so little endeavor, with so marked experience and an effecting sincerity that is smashing in its genuine portrayal of a boy who has been continuously abandoned and neglected by his parents.
The focus of the movie centers around Gregory's conflict and his relationship with his parents; it is shown why and how they forced him to "divorce" them. The other movie dealing with Gregory's story, 'Shattered Family', featuring Tom Guiry as the leading character, deals more with Gregory's new family and how he manages to integrate himself into the Russ clan.
By further comparing the two movies, I would say that 'Shattered Family' is slightly better as a whole, due to a better cast. Richard Crenna as Mr. Russ is much stronger and more credible than Bill Smitrovich here, as is Cyril O'Reilly as Ralph Kingsley. On the other hand I would say that Kathleen York is a better Rachel than Joycelyn O'Brien in 'Shattered Family', mainly due to a stronger mother-son conflict and basically having a more substantial and credible appearance.
A comparison of the two young actors Tom Guiry and Joseph Gordon-Levitt is very difficult. They both have tremendous talent and give outstanding performances in these movies. Both manage to carry the emotional burden with genuine charm and natural skills. Still, if I had to decide, I would say Joseph Gordon-Levitt has done slightly better. He manages to say so much with subtle facial expressions; he seems to have such a strong personality that makes him perfectly fit into the role of Gregory Kingsley.
I give this movie a 9, not because it has such a convincing cast or outstanding visuals. In fact, it has not, save for Gregory's part. I give it a 9 because it manages to emotionally address an issue of profound importance. It is the issue of whether parental rights are unalienable or not. It is the issue of which rights minors are entitled to, the issue if they ought to have the possibility of deciding for themselves where to live, so that they can be happy.
Just as Gregory says, in both movies: "I'm doing this for me so that I can be happy."
This is what he is fighting for but it is also the origin of this movie's dramatic and emotional quality.
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