|Index||3 reviews in total|
This film is based on a true story and presents a cautionary tale of
state social services and what happens to a family once they are in the
system and wrongfully accused by over-zealous prosecutors.
Basically Lisa Hartman Black and her husband Chris Meloni, live in a middle-class suburb in Washington state. They have a newborn and some financial issues. Cloris Leachman is very good as the spiteful mother-in-law.
The baby first becomes sick so Hartman takes him to the nearest hospital, Hollingsworth Poison Control Center. The baby at first recovers, and the doctor informs them that he had antifreeze in his system. Unfortunately the child dies, and social services steps in and unjustly accuse the mother (Hartman). She is railroaded into prison and doesn't have money for a good defense lawyer.
Chris Meloni ("Law and Order") is very sympathetic as the loving husband who does all he can to get his wife freed from prison. He stands by his wife even when his own mother says, "I never liked Laurie, she probably did it". Unfortunately that is still the attitude here, as many are unjustly accused and thrown into jail.
Eventually, Laurie gets an attorney (well portrayed by James Staley), who is arrogant and uses her defense as reasonable doubt: he has won all of his cases, he says, and the jury will not convict. Well, that plan fails and Hartman is sentenced to life in prison.
Her husband fails to be deterred and now has a mission to prove his wife innocent. He eventually retains attorney Orr (David Ogden-Stiers) who researches the illness her child died from. It is a rare genetic disorder but the prosecution conveniently left out the medical facts. Eventually, she is released and in reality had a considerable civil suit against Washington State and the hospitals and social worker who testified against her. A frightening and true story. 9/10.
This movie is a minor miracle, as it has avoided almost every obvious
pitfall in re-telling the true story of a mother accused of murdering her
baby. Instead of the sentimental, cliche ridden tear-jerker you would
expect from such unpromising material, what we have here is a top quality
murder mystery suspense thriller. The script keeps you guessing until the
A circle of family members come under the shadow of suspicion as all the events of the baby's death are gradually laid bare. Although the mother is charged with murder, there is constant doubt whether she or someone else is the guilty party, or whether there could be an innocent explanation after all. Indeed the suspicion between close family members who themselves don't know the truth of the matter, provides the basis for the tension and suspense which keeps this story interesting.
Along the way, some of the less attractive aspects of the US legal system are laid bare, as well as the unbelievable sexism which is never commented on, but which pervades all the events (I'm a guy and even I noticed it!).
Although the final stages of the movie fall away to a less convincing level of scripting, I'm willing to forgive that for the excellent mystery that's gone before.
Unfortunately, if you live in the USA and you've read all about the facts of the real Laurie Samuels legal case, then there will be no surprises for you and you can go for a walk in the fresh air, instead of watching this movie which will tell you nothing you don't already know.
I liked the movie. On the other hand, I thought it was a tear-jerker and that was just fine with me. The whole story was so sad. But like the Aussie said, there was a strong mystery element in there, and I was a little disappointed at the end when the whole thing didn't get pinned on the one I believed to be guilty! But on the whole, this is a very good movie, especially considering it's a made-for-television movie, not to mention a courtroom drama. Both genres earn little respect in the Hollywood-oriented film world to-day. Being an American, I can appreciate the feelings of the two main attorneys in the movie--the feelings that justice ought to be carried out, despite the failure of the system, or in this case, the original defense attorney. Since this is a true story, I'm happy to learn there are lawyers out there with enough of a shred of decency to actually try and serve the truth. About the actors: I don't know why they're no-names--I thought they were all very good, especially the small-town sheriff (character development--swift but sure!). The whole thing made me want to act in made-for-television movies! I recommend this film to anyone who can appreciate good acting, good filming, and a good story told simply and effectively.
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