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See also comments on "Snap Decision." "Just Ask My Children" was scheduled the following night at 2.30 am, which says a lot for our network! This should be prime time viewing to arouse public debate. I was horrified, outraged and sick to my stomach. The dramatisation no doubt contributed to that, but the basis of truth and the span of years to achieve any form of resolution was truly frightening. The comparisons with the witch hunts of past centuries is really scary for those of us far away from the States and watching the political developments which have been reinforced by recent election results. The seemingly uncontrolled abuse of power by police and "Child Welfare" authorities, supported by politically elected judges with local small town agendas (which is so alien to us) reflects to some of us a deep and frightening potential for hysteria supported by conservatism and possibly religious fervour, replacing the power of reason. All decent parents have a horror of paedophilia, but the impact of zealots who have set out to protect society from itself at the expense of reason can be just as damaging to us all. May all you good and decent Americans not be afraid to walk the middle road - clearly the makers of this film share the outrage and have the courage. How can we ensure no recurrence? See this film, you will be moved by it.
I have never before in my entire life seen a movie which dealt so
strongly and so stirringly with the most profound and most common human
emotion of all: love within a family. I felt emotionally attached to
the Kniffen family as if I were a member of their kin. The emotional
roller-coaster this movie provides is substantial and will not let go
of you. This is because of the unbelievable injustice and the
outrageous mistake committed by the legal system of the United States.
Just Ask My Children is a true story, elaborating on the tragedy of the Kniffen family in 1982. This was the time of a nation-wide witch-hunt that tore dozens of families apart and brought many innocent parents into jail. Scott and Brenda Kniffen (Jeff Nordling and Virginia Madsen) live a happy life with their two boys Brandon, age 9, and six-year-old Brian. When wrong allegations of child abuse cause a state-wide hysteria, they find themselves in a harrowing nightmare. Without a shred of evidence, the Kniffens are arrested and their two sons are taken away from them and put into the custody of social services. There the impressionable boys are brainwashed, confused and utterly manipulated by a malicious prosecutor in his relentless ambition to put the Kniffens into prison. In court they testify against their own parents, which convinces the jury beyond the reasonable doubt that Brenda and Scott Kniffen are guilty of committing the heinous crimes they are accused of in the indictment. They are sentenced to 240 years each, the longest sentences ever imposed in Kern County. Scott and Brenda spend twelve years behind bars, suffering and praying to God, while their boys are put from foster home to foster home, confused and emotionally scarred.
The movie gains all its strength from this single, but tremendously strong theme. While following the developments of the story, the tragedy and the hardships imposed on this innocent couple makes everyone unwilling to believe that such an outrageous thing could have actually happened not yet 20 years ago. The reference to medieval witch trials occasionally surfaces in the story and makes the audience even more aware of how merciless the system can be in case of utter failure.
The toughest and most brilliant aspect this movie deals with is how the family is effected by the verdict. The story of the boys, as they mature and question their own past is wonderfully adapted to their emotional turmoil. Scott's parents and their continuous fight to prove the innocence of their son and Brenda is stunning in its passion and desperate commitment. The movie features various heart-breaking scenes that will leave you emotionally drained and makes you aware of how much suffering the family has to bear. The tragedy hits you so strong because you know the truth, and you feel so sorry for the entire family, good and decent people now thoroughly despised by the public and labeled as child molesters.
Brian and Brandon are played by Ryan Wilson (Cold Creek Manor) and Cody Dorkin at the beginning, then by Dan Byrd and Scott Bailey. Finally Gregory Smith (The Patriot) plays 18-year-old Brian, Scott Bailey again 21-year-old Brandon. The passing of the years makes the audience understand how long this struggle for justice went on and how desperate Scott and Brenda sought freedom to embrace their sons. The young actors portraying the two boys, above all Ryan Wilson and Cody Dorkin, do a great job. Ryan Wilson in particular made it straight into my heart, due to his performance in the court room, but also when he is yearning for his mom. The scene when Scott and Brenda are allowed to see their boys one last time is nothing but tough, because it shows the tragedy of the separation in all its brutality. You see this family, how much they love each other and how strongly they yearn for just being together again, but you know that they will remain torn apart.
Just Ask My Children will affect you, even more so if you consider it being based on a true story. It makes you mad at the relentless prosecutors and shows with smashing credibility how atrociously the system can fail. The emotional scenes are likely to force tears into your eyes, as you automatically associate and identify with Scott and Brenda. The story is really tough, not suited for kids and an emotional roller-coaster that will leave you terrified. This movie deserves a 10, no doubt about that.
Just saw this movie on T.V. for the first time today. I can personally
tell you that this 90 minutes barely scratches the surface of the
stories of ALL of the families involved. Someone should do a followup
story on the children involved and how they were mentally affected by
what they were exposed to during those years. My family in California
did not contact us to let us know this movie was out . . . . but we
don't talk much about it anymore - too painful.
One key subject here is something most people don't realize. Your children ARE NOT required to have an attorney present when they are questioned by the police. Therefore, a child can be denied sleep and food. Questioning techniques that are used by the military were used on these children. Some of them were also told that if they would just admit to the charges that they could go home to their parents. I know - if I were not related to two of the children involved - I wouldn't believe this happened in the United States in this century.
I can not believe that this could happen to anyone. I feel very sorry
for the family's that had to endure this. To spend 14 years in jail
because some whino woman wanted custody of SOMEONE elses kids is not
Whatever happened to this Mary person that did this to these poor people.
She ruined a family life , took good parents away from their children and ruined these kids lives. Made these poor kids die inside and not feel any remorse.
I wish there was something I could do for this family that had to go through all of this and I hope that the people who decided to ignore the facts and prosecute because of allegations was purely wrong and i hope they rot for what they did.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
"Just Ask My Children" is a perfect example at how made for television
movies can still pull at the heartstrings and make you cry in buckets.
And the fact that this is based on a true story makes it a bit harder
Brenda and Scott Kniffen (Virginia Madsen and Jeffrey Nordling) are the perfect family, with 2 sons who love them dearly. However, the family is soon torn apart by a lie that will send Brenda and Scott to prison, and the 12 years that it took for the truth to set them free.
Brenda and Scott help out some friends during a custody trial. Unfortunately the vindictive relative decides to get even by accusing them and the Kniffens of sexually abusing their children. The police, in "witch hunt" mode, coax the kids into giving false testimony against their parents and the Kniffen's lives go into a spiral. Accused of molesting their children, a jury finds them guilty and sentences them to over 200 years in prison, the children taken away and put into a series of foster homes. With the help of a private detective, the truth finally comes to light, but the damage is done: The Kniffens had lost 12 years of their lives, and the boys are overwhelmed with the guilt of what had happened.
In today's society, in which it becomes more and more apparent that the judicial system is heavily flawed, this film is a prime example of how a single lie can destroy not just one person, but the whole family in the process (Scotty's parents died fighting for their son's freedom).
All of the performances are incredible and heartbreaking to watch, so have the tissue handy.
I agree that 10 is not a high enough number to rate this movie. This movie was well written, produced, and all the actors and actresses did a wonderful job. I am a fan of Virginia Madsen. The sad part is that what happened to this family happens all the time to other families and you do not hear or read about it. As I children's rights advocate, I have seen what happened to this family happen time and again. While you are watching this movie or even after you have seen it you will ask yourself, "How can this happen in the US?" Of course, I have other personal opinions that I cannot post here. This movie is a "must see" for anyone who has a child or children and/or works with children and/or families, etc. I would highly recommend this movie to be shown in college Psychology classes, law schools, especially when you are studying Family Law/Domestc Law, Criminal Law, and for medical doctors, nurses, psychiatrists, psychologists, social workers, etc.
This movie really made me think about injustice and the parents love
for their children. One day i hope to have children myself and i hope
that the children i have will stand up for me and i never have to go
through what the family involved in this spectacular piece of cinema
The acting and script was very convincing- i felt like i was watching the actual event first-hand, not a re-construction of events by trained actors. The courage of the family will be in my mind forever, it WAS awesome!!! probably the best true-life film i have ever set eyes on. Congratulations to the director for creating this masterpiece, it was a real credit to it's genre.
"Just Ask My Children" is based on the true story of a modern-day
in which a couple is falsely accused and jailed for molesting their own
When Brenda (Virginia Madsen) and Scott Kniffen (Jeffrey Nordling) are asked to testify at a custody hearing on behalf of their friends, they and their two sons, Brandon and Brian, are sucked into a nightmare. Their friends' hysterical relative has accused both sets of parents of molestation and peddling child pornography - and the local D.A.'s office is intent on appearing tough on child abusers. They badger Brian and Brandon into testifying against their mom and dad, with tragic results. For 12 horrible years, Brenda and Scott languish behind bars, separated from the sons they love and fighting to prove their own innocence.
This is the kind of movie that will put you in a position where you are mad and heart broken at the same time.The real bad part about the movie is it's a true story and and that all of that really did happen!! When watching this movie, keep kleenex nearby.
As I watched this families nightmare unfold it broke my heart. I am the mother of 3 young sons and just seeing what this family went through was awfull....I cried through the whole movie. I cannot imagine being separated from my babies for 12 long painful agonizing years. That was nothing more than a modern day witch hunt and it's so sad to know other innocent parents are still in prison for this also. May God bless this family as they heal from all the lost years. It is such a scary thought knowing that such an injustice can happen. I wish the boys grand parents could have seen the day justice was FINALY served. I am sure they were smiling down on them from Heaven.
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