Family of Strangers (TV Movie 1993) Poster

(1993 TV Movie)

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a stranger is a friend you haven't met
petershelleyau16 December 2002
Patty Duke is Beth Thompson, beautician and mother of Julie Lawson (Melissa Gilbert) who had given the child away at birth. Seattle raised researcher Julie finds Beth in Cloverton, Canada, after it is discovered she is adopted and needs to know her medical history to treat a brain blood clot. Together they search for the identity of the father.

Duke and Gilbert have an ease and stillness together, with them both wet in the rain when Duke tells of a traumatic incident, and Duke giving Gilbert a shampoo. Gilbert gets to sing Let Me Call You Sweetheart as a lullaby to her own daughter Megan and a `God' with the dizziness that precedes a car crash, but Duke has more acting opportunities - messing up her salon in anger, matching her flashback of the birth reaching out for the baby who is taken away, and writhing on the ground in the forest in an re-enactment.

The teleplay by William Gough and Anna Sandor, based on a true story and the book Jody by Jerry Hulse, features dialogue on the level of `Before that night I hardly ever told a lie. After that night I hardly ever told the truth'. However director Sheldon Larry provides a 5 minute flashback in stop motion super 8 film stock (even if later he goes overboard with the gothic touches), slow motion for Julie's brain clot car crash, William Shatner is good if under-used as Julie's adopted father Earl, and the music score of Peter Manning Robinson uses a mournful vocal theme which is very effective but brief.
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A very moving story
Nicholas Rhodes23 October 2000
Seen quite frequently on French TV, I enjoy watching this film. The plot is well done, the acting a pleasure to watch; especially for the girl's mother and the final dénouement not bad at all. The only thing I regret is the picture quality which is not up to scratch.
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Touching With A Surprising Revelation
Noirdame7924 May 2011
Warning: Spoilers
Count me in as someone else who is glad this movie has made it to DVD. I taped it several years back as well and it really is a very underrated TV movie. Melissa Gilbert and Patty Duke always work very well together; they have a respect and ease with each other that comes off on screen. The film was shot on location in British Columbia and many Canadian actors are featured. It is also based on a true story from the book "Jody" written by Jerry Hulse. As I have not read it, I don't know what liberties were taken with it for this TV drama.

Julie (Gilbert) is a young mother who is separated from her husband Sam (Eric McCormack, looking very young and sporting a believable American accent), and is living in Seattle with her daughter Megan (the late Ashleigh Aston Moore, who then went by Ashley Rogers) and her recently widowed father Earl (William Shatner).

One day while driving to work, Julie suffers a blockage in her brain and requires surgery, but she must find out if there is a history of strokes in her family. When she asks Earl for information on their family medical history, he reveals that she was adopted as an infant and he has no idea who her biological parents were. This sends Julie reeling and she sets out to discover her true parentage - after all, her life is at risk. A researcher, she discovers her birth mother came from Cloverton, British Columbia. When she tracks down Beth (Patty Duke), at first she meets with resistance and then a painful truth - Beth does not know the identity of Julie's father because she was raped. The women form a bond as they work together to uncover the rapist's identity - all Beth knows for certain is one of the boys who were in her circle of friends was the perpetrator, but as the rape occurred on a dark night following a homecoming dance in 1964, the pair must investigate and try to track the now grown men down. The identity of Julie's father and Beth's rapist is quite a surprise - at least it was to me. A few red herrings appear to throw the viewer off, making it even more shocking when the truth is revealed.

The film also features flashback sequences that recreate the mid-sixties quite well, and the director did the best to make it seem like it was shot on 8mm, and making the attack very frightening and the features of the rapist hard see clearly. The young actors do very well in their brief scenes although most bear little resemblance to their adult counterparts. It's also painful to watch as young Beth was made to feel dirty by her own mother, who refused to tell anyone (even Beth's father) about the rape and subsequent pregnancy, for which Beth was sent away to Seattle with the ruse that she was attending beauty school out of town when in fact she was waiting to give birth and was forced to give her baby up for adoption. Julie was taken from her right after she delivered and Duke's acting proves that her Oscar win for Best Supporting Actress as a teenager was no fluke. The pain, grief, anger and vulnerability in Beth is just superbly portrayed, and Gilbert's Julie matches her.

Watching this is also a very moving experience. Julie's quest to find herself, and realize the love around her, and Beth's journey into healing and reuniting with the child she never had the chance to know.

Recommended, but keep the tissues handy.
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Flawed, but not so bad.
Rabster2212 March 2009
Warning: Spoilers
I approached this with low expectations. A TV movie with the only two credited names in a brief guide being that of Melissa Gilbert and William Shatner... Gilbert is not a terrible actress (mostly), Shatner is well, I think we know. Thankfully the latter plays a very small part and despite poor pacing the story is enough to keep you watching if you can stay the course. Gilbert needs to know her family medical history to help prevent a premature death, it transpires she was adopted and having traced her 'birth mother' discovers her father was a rapist. Heavy stuff but handled in typical TV movie fashion. The story now turns detective, there are four possible candidates for the rape and Gilbert (happily a researcher) has to discover the right one. Apparently "inspired by a true story" - a catch all phrase that means almost nothing we go through melodrama and very inconsistent performances. This film both annoyed me, but somehow kept me watching.
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Could be so much better
windfanatic466 February 2004
This movie is horrible. However, there is potential of it actually being good. The basic plot is interesting, but it's really messy and could use some cleaning up. As well, the acting is horrible, but I'm not sure I'd blame it on the actors. I think it's the script that throws them off. There's also quite a few flashback scenes which are almost impossible to sit through, a kid could make them look better! I think the director was trying to make it dramatic and artistic, but it comes out as hard to follow and just plain brutal. It's too bad, with some help, this movie could really be pretty decent. But in the state it's in, it only gets 2 stars (out of five)...even then I'm probably being too generous.
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