Stranger Inside (TV Movie 2001) Poster

(2001 TV Movie)

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Searching for Someone to Call Family
nycritic10 May 2005
Warning: Spoilers
Cheryl Dunye's gritty jail drama STRANGER INSIDE tells the story of Treasure, a young girl who's gone on the wrong side of the tracks of life and who gets reunited with her birth mother, Brownie, in jail. Instead of finding love and reassurance, though, she learns Brownie is a very dangerous and violent person who may even be using her for her interests while in jail, but Treasure is so determined to win Brownie over that all logic flies out the window, and even when in one chilling scene Brownie threatens to slice her, she still continues to come back. Social displacement and broken families are at the center of this very honest indie film which I caught on HBO recently, and there are never any moments of exploitation so common in women's prison pictures. In fact, this is an unsentimental study of the nature of violent people who even in their violence are still trying to make some sense out of their lives, and it takes actors not yet tainted by vanity and glamour to accept these roles. Yolonda Ross, Davenia McFadden, and Rain Phoenix all play their parts with verve, and even if the ending is somewhat downbeat and ambivalent, you won't forget Treasure. Highly recommended.
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It's the ending that makes it.
tcm062428 June 2001
There are quite a few things wrong with this film. Let's see:

We don't like any character too much. The main character's quiet, yet aggressive, manner hinders the character development. The duality of love among prison "families" and prison violence is not totally believable. At times, the movie actually seems slow moving.

This movie is very similar to some other prison movie in every aspect except the ending.

I sure didn't expect the ending yet now it makes perfect sense. All by itself the ending makes the movie worth watching.
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Lights Out, Girls!!
natashabowiepinky29 June 2013
A warts-and-all depiction of life on the inside for women in the United States, so don't expect to see any tellies in cells or parties for inmates here. These girls are tougher than the skin of a burnt jacket potato, with violence and drug taking seen as an everyday occurrence. It's a place where the weak don't last for a day, and the wardens are almost as corrupt as the jailbirds. Into this hellhole arrives Treasure Lee, who has intentionally got herself sent down so she can meet her mum, who is a long term resident of this particular facility. As usual in the world of film though, things aren't as clear-cut as they appear...

Credit to the director, this feels like a real-life, breathing prison, from the raucous games of basketball in the exercise yard, to the torture of being stuck in solitary confinement. I would LOVE our jails here in ol' soft touch UK to resemble this, but alas the yuman rights people would have a coronary. The 'ladies' may be both brutish and distinctly unfeminine, but they have their own unique personalities and this makes them fascinating to observe. Treasure's growing relationship with her mother is also movingly handled, and there are surprises ahead too... But I will say no more. To sum up then: A more than passable TV movie which should serve as a suitable deterrent for any potential American laddettes out there... 6/10
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a very good TV movie
kobe141322 March 2005
This movie caught my attention one late night on HBO and I could not stop watching it. The movie felt so real. The acting by Yolonda Ross and Davenia McFadden dominates the movie and gives it life. The supporting cast, lead by Rain Phoenix, each fill out their role. The various characters are memorable, even though much of the story is standard prison-life material, this movie is able to rise above lesser fare by presenting the personal side of prison life. The struggles of the main characters keeps the viewer engrossed. With a twist at the end, the movie is enjoyable from beginning to end. I give it an overall 7 out of of 10.
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Director = A film professor of mine; Film = Good!
twilightfades3316 May 2004
The director of this film was my professor for a beginning film class at Temple University this past semester. She is a very intelligent and funny woman, and at the end of the semester, we watched this film. Grades are in already, so don't think I'm posting this to brownnose, but I really enjoyed seeing Ms. Dunye's film.

The "women-in-prison" plot is not an area covered very often in film, and when it is touched on, there are too many stereotypes to keep count of. Although there is some predictability in this film, the subject matter and themes were looked at from a very fresh angle. Ms. Dunye often talked to our class about incorporating reality and fiction together so that the two would blend and the line separating them would be blurry. This is exactly what she's accomplished in this film. The storyline is believable and the viewer becomes sympathetic to the characters; even though they are convicted prisoners, we look past the bars and into the minds of these women. We may not understand their motives, but we appreciate their actions. I'd recommend this film to anyone, especially those who've never seen a movie covering this subject area before.

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Raw, intelligent & emotional.
adlermgmt7 January 2002
Unlike the one user who thinks the movie is about lesbianism (and obviously immoral to their Christian sensibilities), it's actually about humanity, family legacies and the consequences of personal choices. It stopped me in my channel changing tracks and brought to a few tears by the end of it. That's a good flick. Excellent acting, real dialogue for the most part, and effective music and slo-mo. If you catch it on TV, stay for the treat.
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desperateliving25 February 2005
What would probably be referred to as a "gritty slice of life drama" on the movie box (I saw it on TV) is interesting insofar as it presents another perspective -- it's the female equivalent of the "Oz" TV show (produced by HBO films), without the smarmy sexuality (the women are appropriately mannish, but the film doesn't feel the need to make their sex aggressive and off-putting). There are a few brief moments of tenderness between the women, but it's mostly the same thing you get with the majority of prison life movies -- fights, friendships, back-stabbings, immoral guards -- just with female machismo. It sets up the inner life of the prison, these people who inhabit it, but it doesn't show us human beings in prison (despite the old-timers' advice in group therapy sessions), it shows us prisoners. I liked the ending, so it gets an extra point for that, simply as a story; but if you're looking for "cinema," look elsewhere. 7/10
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It gives you a chance to see what a woman's life in prison is.....
Irishchatter29 June 2015
Warning: Spoilers
I have to admit, this film was rough as hell. Like seriously the actresses did pretty well for playing rough criminals. I would hate to see myself in this situation if being in prison as it's the least place I would go to or stay.

It was sad, hurtful and heartbreaking that the woman who posed as Treasures mum wasn't honest to who she really was, she was the actual murderer who killed her mother. I would've loved to have given Treasure a hug because she had been through so much crap in her life. I really hope she finds a partner of whom she really loves and will always be there for her 24/7. This movie really tells the tale of what life is like in prison and I really applaud for HBO for showing this TV movie, it's very good!
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Poor and predictable.
hitchcockthelegend4 March 2008
Nothing to sing about here in a very mundane TV movie prison drama. It seems like it is confused about if it should shock its audience or to tug on the heart strings, it does neither and remains a curiosity piece only for fans of the acting family Phoenix, as here we get Rain Phoenix doing OK whilst looking exactly like Joaquin. Some initial promise with the characters is never fully realised, and when the violence does come it seems almost as if they felt they needed to up the anti to keep the viewer interested. Not a total waste of time but not one to reccie with confidence to fans of prison dramas.

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If you like prison movies of quality & depth, you'll like this one.
CarolH8957 July 2002
This film takes you on a roller coaster ride through a treacherous and dismal glimpse in the life of a street-hardened incarcerated woman named Treasure, a gang-banging "G" girl,searching for her imprisoned mother who abandoned her in her youth. Often times, prison movies rely heavily on violent content to carry the movie over the top. This movie is intriguing because it delves into the relationships and encounters Treasure has in her quest to find her mother, showing not only her vulnerability and humanness, but also her ruthlessness and desperation...a great character study. This film could have been outstanding had more attention been paid to other main characters in depth as was Treasure's character. The film's ending was quite surprising and not what you would expect from your average prison movie.I would recommend this film for your collection.
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no ordinary women need apply!
gayeshortland24 January 2006
Compelling watching and some terrific performances. A storyline that kept up the interest and camera work that knew how to caress its subjects. So what's my gripe? After several days' thinking about it, I have to conclude it was lesbian fantasy more than the realistic drama it claims to be. Treasure had beauty and impact and I LOVED Shadow's mobile face - but we might as well have been watching two teenage boys - theirs was a lean male beauty. And as for Brownie!! Great performance but why did she also have to have the physique of a man -- a squat brutal one in this case? There wasn't any sense that we were watching ordinary women in a terrible predicament. And had none of them men or children on the outside? Where was their history? That older woman in group session was almost stuck in to compensate for the lack of all that. Secondly I agree that Treasure's brooding impassive personality prevented us from knowing her thoughts and really feeling for her and in the end robbed the film of emotional impact.
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It Exposes What Really Goes On
pbattle25 September 2001
The movie "Stranger Inside" was an astonishing movie. Although it had some unclean scenes and scenes that you really didn't feel that was necessary, the writer is exposing what's really going on out in the real world. Scenes from this movie was not fictional, but nonfictional. A lot of us don't like to face the fact that there are lesbians, homosexuals, or however they are labeled out there doing these things and not only in correctional facilities. The writer also exposes why the character "Treasure" came out the way she did. It was because of the absence of her mother and that's some of the problems also, there are absent mothers and fathers that are not with their children and it gives them the idea to do the things they do. I can't go into details, but I honestly think that is an award winning movie that should be exposed to society and let them know what's really going on.
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Very Heart Wrenching
SRLReeves19 July 2001
Well, sometimes life itself doesn't make perfect sense. This movie was so awesome. Heart touching. I was on the edge of my seat the whole time. The love scenes were like, so in tune.

They weren't explicit, they used just enough for the imagination. But the ending, my heart almost skipped a beat. I guessed a lot of what was going to happen but never in a million years, did I expect all of that. You are in for a real treat. I felt the pain. Boy did I. That's all I am going to say for I will probably let it blurt out the ending if I don't stop now. Please watch. I watched with my mother. Mother and Daughter. And it was very heart touching.
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