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I first watched this when I was about ten so the abuse went right over my head but even then, at that age, I was saddened by how this boy suffered when he was torn from his family only to be reunited after the damage has been done to his mind and soul. When I watched the film again as a teenage, my sadness was mixed with disgust and anger that the perverted monster that was Parnell was allowed to wander around unchecked despite having a criminal record for offences against children. It was also horrifying to see what little was actually done to either help Steven, as not only when he did try to tell a teacher of his abduction, he was accused of lying and being ungrateful but Parnell was able to freely go from town-to-town with a child who was not his own and with no-one challenging this. This film depicts both the trauma Steven faces as he grew up in such horrifying circumstances and the grief of the parents he left behind but it also shows the courage of the Stayners, who all remained strong through everything.
As true stories go, I think this has to be one of the best films out there and I recommend it to everyone. Do be prepared for your blood pressure to soar though when it is revealed that, infuriatingly, Parnell was let off with a light sentence for kidnapping and abusing Steven. It certainly shattered my illusions that the US has a great criminal justice system that the terribly lax system in the UK should take lessons from. This is one piece of filth who surely deserved a trip on 'Old Sparky' to fry for those vile acts to a little boy who almost loved him as a father to some degree.
No spoilers here, but I assure you that you WILL empathize with the much-abused protagonist, whose life after the film ends proved to be equally tragic.
A true gem. Don't miss it when it replays on LifeTime, or if you can find it at a rental store.
People need to see this movie,it's an important life lesson.
God bless the late Steven Stayner.
Not only that but readers to this comments index may not be aware that now 71 year old Kenneth Parnell was arrested again in California in January 2003 for trying to buy a little boy!
Lifetime Cable TV should show this movie "I Know My First Name Is Stephen" at least once a month, to remind people everywhere that they have Kenneth Parnells living in their own neighborhood. No longer can parents leave their children alone for even a minute. The world is far too dangerous.
I would like to add that I think Corey Nemec's performance in this film was exceptional and effective. What a talented young man.
The abuse of Steven is left up to the imagination in the TV adaptation, which is tactful to the family of Steven, but does gloss over the point that Steven was severely sexually abused and raped, and that Steven was okay with his friends suffering the same fate when they visited. These little details and many others like them make for a more frightening and even more gripping one than was produced. This is a shame, but understandable for a low budget US TV movie.
Generally, this is well worth a watch, though the book is better factually; but I'd probably give it a miss if you have young children.
The movie is in 2 parts, and the 1st part is worth watching over and over again. The 2nd part loses its' dramatic flair and seems to drag on for eternity.
I would have to say the most poignant part in the movie is when she goes into the bedroom of her 7 year old son (which is now missing), and smells his pajamas and starts weeping. They then take you to Steven Stayner himself, and all you could hear is cries in the dark as he's telling his abductor to "stop it".
This is a definite tear-jerker.
Every parent, or everyone that will be a parent should see this one. It emphasizes the need to tell your children to NOT TALK TO STRANGERS.
This movie was made with a certain amount of class, they did not go for shock value by being more graphic about the sexual abuse going on. It became more apparent during the movie as it played out, yet thankfully the movie makers were more subtle about it in the midst of the movie.
Lifetime Network features a lot of these true to life movies, and kudos to them. I know it is all entertainment, but it is also informative to keep us on the defense of all of the sickos out there.
Steven in real life perished a few years after his escape, and that is tragic. Just as tragic is that Parnell recently tried to buy a child, like a loaf of bread or gallon of milk, for his sick needs. As a free man. Sad.
In closing, any parent or parent to be must see this movie. I know it is somewhat unpleasant, but in this day and age, it is really important to see the elements of a cancer to the innocent American way of life.
All in all, it is probably not a movie that parents might want to watch with a young child, but they should as it gives them the opportunity and impetus to talk to their kids about the evil things some people do and what they should do about it if it happens to them, better yet, what they should do to prevent it happening in the first place.
"I know my first name is Steven" was originally shown in two parts!The first half dealt with Steven's life with his humble parents and 4 siblings.When little Steven is abducted by the sleazy Parnell he doesn't even realize what has occurred.His abductor uses no force or violence!Steven simply BELIEVES what he is told and simply OBEYS the man who is now his adult authority!The filmmakers have tactfully(and thankfully!) managed to spare the viewers any graphic details of Steven's life with his abductor.But still the disturbing question remains: How was this middle-aged man(with a history of child molestation!) able to keep a MISSING child in his home,send him to public schools,pass him off as his son with NOBODY in any position of authority suspicious??And remember in the SAME STATE!!!
The second half is really the beginning of the heart of the movie!Steven is returned to his family! He now has the father,mother,brothers,sisters,rules,curfews,church attendance,etc.And he DOSEN'T LIKE IT!! Fourteen year old Steven has already been sexually active,has smoked and drank since childhood! His new life with his family simply doesn't last! He has no basis for a relationship with them and the bonds of these relationships have long since been destroyed! He leaves his parent's home and moves in with his girlfriend! He and his family come to a peace(of sorts!) but we the viewers know that the damage has been done!!
Read the book if you can find it.
Steven Stayner unfortunately died in a motorcycle accident some years later.
It is a great movie with a very sad and disappointing ending. Parnell deserved so much more than what he got and to later learn of Steven's fate just tears me up inside.
It knocks the breathe from you with the sheer hopelessness of it. About halfway through I pause it because I say to myself who is that guy, (Steven Dorff,) or that other guy (the guy from Parker Lewis Can't Lose,) but just to confirm I go to IMDb. Well under notes and trivia about this move it is like
"oh, by the way, this kid who goes through hell for seven years, kidnapped, raped(several thousand times over the course of seven years sample dialogue ' No your not my first woman, I had my first woman when I was nine' Yeah cause your rapist kidnapper brought home a dolly and they raped you together!',) and brainwashed into thinking he is worthless... this kid crashes his motorcycle at the age of 24 and dies, leaving a wife and two kids." PUNCH.
If that isn't bad enough, note two. The kind caring older brother, Cary, kills and mutilates the bodies of four women in Yosemite national park in 1999. PUNCH.
So the rest of the movie I'm bummed. The rapist gets off with just two years, the good guy dies, that sympathetic older brother (psychopath!)
I feel so stupid, and helpless. Like how the +uck do I make this feeling stop. This kid, this poor kid. A F+_ing hero, doesn't run away till a new kid is taken and even than doesn't go in with the kid, is caught when the kid runs out of the police station back to him. Stupid Lifetime movie network, stupid me, stupid @u#king world,
To make a long story short (too late!) The movie is great, but you feel awful after watching it
The physical abuse was truly abhorrent and sickening. The way he was duped into going with this man, the way he was manipulated and lied to, the cruel mental torture - was something that really affected me and made me feel so,so,so sad and sorry for Steven and his family.
The whole story is heart wrenching but a few of the scene's really pull at the heart and make you sob. In particular, when Steven's mum picks up his tiny PJ's and smells them and finds and reads Steven's letter to Santa. Also when Steven's dad cries on his bed and when he can't bring himself to paint over Steven's name on the garage(Steven had draw this on the morning he was taken). There are lots of other really emotional scene's, but the one that really touches me, it makes me happy and then so sad at the same time, is the end scene - when Steven says "I'm sorry" to his mum (as they make their peace)- it is so emotional.
What a brave person Steven was. I am in tears thinking of him as I write this review and tribute to Steven.
During the years, as I have grown up, I have often though of Steven and this life story. It always made me well up inside and normally cry - but it also inspired me - if I was feeling sorry for myself - I would use Steven's example to summons extra courage.
Now I am a father, with young Children - "I came across" the story again and watched the film on you-tube - the story still captivated me -but more importantly,I have sought to research Steven's real life in more detail. The lasting legacy of the work Steven did for missing children after his escape and now the statue of him(and Timmy White)in Merced, CA are a fitting memorial to him and his parents, wife and children.
I don't believe what his brother did in 1999 (which was truly terrible)should in anyway alter the way people remember Steven.
In a tragic way Steven dying, the way he did and so young only serves to cement his legacy. May God truly Bless Steven's wife, Mother and Children. I will always remember Steven and his story. I pray that lasting good will continue to be done through Steven Stayner's life and story.