Adopted teenager Sara goes in search of her birth mother Abby, only to find the woman in prison for bank robbery and manslaughter. In an upcoming parole hearing, Sara helps Abby win release, and decides to spend the summer with her before leaving for college. But Sara soon finds herself in danger as her mother returns to her former partner in crime, Carl. When Carl ends up dead, both Abby and Sara will be wanted for murder – hunted by the police and the dead man’s cohorts.
When savoring a Lifetime movie, the viewer should be reminded that most of these movies follow a methodical story line (just like Hallmark movies do). Moreover, it is the twists and turns along the way in addition to the caliber of acting that drives the stories and sets them apart. All too often, reviewers wish to compare these kinds of movies to theatrical releases, but that is like comparing apples with oranges. I always approach my reviews with an open mind, and I am prompted to recall that most of these films are relatively low-budget and rely heavily on skillful talent to make them work. In this case, these suppositions hold true, and I honestly couldn’t be more satisfied with the sumptuous outcome. While negligible violence and profanity were in existence, I was not offended at anything I witnessed nor heard on the screen. In fact, I was thoroughly captivated from start to finish, and I shall endeavor to keep this review as spoiler-free as possible.
Had it not been for Tara Wilson’s timely twitter alert concerning this movie, I would have completely overlooked this gem. Because of her work on Cedar Cove, I have only recently discovered her prowess, and I was ecstatic at the prospect of seeing this film.
I will be honest–as Paige, I nearly missed her role. Her character is such that if you blink, you may miss her. I was compelled to return to the beginning and watch for her part again. I mentioned this to Tara, and she fully understood. As to her part, she was as wonderful as always, and she made the most of her tiny role. But by her own admission, this role was not the pinnacle of this film for her; it was the opportunity to work with this lady in the photo–Jennifer Copping. Notwithstanding, the other actors in this movie should shower Tara with appreciation because had it not been for her, I would not be reviewing this film!
Now I probably wouldn’t have recognized Matt as Dax, but when I researched his resume, I realized that Hearties would know him well from season one. He has also been in a handful of Christmas films I remember, so I definitely have seen him. However, if I was unable to identify him before, I certainly can now. It does appear that he may be cast as the “bad guy” customarily due to his features and what can be termed as “type casting.” He’s devilishly handsome to be sure, but those eyes seethe with suspicion and severity. And in this film, he plays his part impeccably! In fact, he was so convincing at times I was frightened–especially towards the end of the film. While it is undeniable that he is fully equipped to be the consummate villain, no doubt his abilities are more widespread than that narrow moniker, and I look forward to seeing him in many more films and shows in the future.
Right away, I recognized Jerry, and even though I haven’t seen much on his resume, he is an actor that once you see him, you can’t forget him. While I have often seen him play criminals, he can easily play any role as long as it is one that can accommodate his stature and robust acting. Whenever his character appears on-screen, I found myself mesmerized by something that I could not quite describe. His natural charisma and booming persona make him a force to be reckoned with on the screen. As Carl, he does not disappoint, and thankfully the other actors are equal to the task of sharing the screen with him. I will continue to watch for this man who has mastered the art of being noticed while completely immersing himself in his role.
Again, this “couple” is new to me as well. While I am familiar with some of the works that Rebecca and Roark have done in the past, this is my first experience with their artistry. All too often, it is characters like this that we take for granted. They play the stalwart adoptive parents who stand by and watch their daughter (now an adult) searching for the mother she never knew. While the pain is almost intolerable at times (they are the only parents their daughter has ever known, and their instincts are sharp), they know that the only way their daughter will ever be satisfied is if she seeks out the truth. They long to stop her–you can see in their faces even here–but they just stand by ready at a moment’s notice to pluck their daughter from impending danger. I believe the fact that they are such a fixture in the film is a testament to their astounding acting abilities. After all, their characters are in the background for the majority of the film, and they never do anything to attract attention to themselves. They seem to fit together just like parents of this caliber would, and their credibility is never called into question. I salute both Anna and Roark for a job incredibly well done.
As far as the main story of the film, however, it is Francesca and Jennifer who make this film what it is. While I had seen Jennifer in other roles (without realizing it), it was the first time I had ever seen Francesca in anything. In fact, I had no idea that Clint Eastwood’s daughter was even an actress (I know–yet another sign that I am somewhat out of the loop).
In the role of Sara, Francesca is positively enchanting. I found myself transfixed by the story she relates and the way she portrays it on the screen. I am aware of the fact that I say that actresses immerse themselves in their roles on a regular basis, but there is a particular quality about Francesca that is not generally seen. I believe it is the vulnerability and naivety that she infuses into her character that causes her portrayal to be so authentic. It’s clear that immense talent runs in the family, for there is no doubt this gal is her father’s daughter. I expect to continue to see even more dazzling things from her in the future. If her performance in this film is indicative of her talent, it boggles the mind to imagine just how stupendous she will be in the years to come.
Sometimes the hardest scenes to watch are the ones where Francesca and Jennifer share the limelight. From the beginning, I was distrustful of Jennifer’s character. Abby seems to be concealing something all along, but the film is often presented through the eyes of Sara. We see the supreme trust she puts in her mom, and we can’t help but wonder that it may be misplaced (although we always hope for a happy ending). At times, these two truly appear to be the ideal mother-daughter duo. While it is undeniable that there is a rhythm between the two, it behooves the viewer to recall that Sara’s view is skewed due to her unconditional love for her mother and her longing for genuine acceptance.
As ex-con Sara, Jennifer plays her role expertly. Now it’s simple to portray a “bad girl.” I see actresses do this remarkably well in countless films. But Jennifer is able to do what only a minority can do. Her finely tuned skill causes the viewers to regard her character through the eyes of her dear daughter. Somewhere deep inside each viewer’s heart, he/she knows that Abby is disreputable. But because of the connection the viewer has fostered with Sara, the supreme desire is a longing to embrace the rose-colored view that this is perhaps going to be one of those Lifetime films that has a fairy tale ending. (Wait a minute–do those actually exist?) Maybe Abby isn’t base and filled with wickedness–perchance she is just misunderstood. Maybe she was falsely accused as she claims. Maybe Carl actually did force her hand or frame her for this nefarious deed. And because Jennifer is able to look stunning in whatever she wears (yes, she can even rock the prison orange jumpsuit) and give the appearance of purity, we believe her–or at least, we want to.
This is the scene when our worries and fears become our worst nightmares–or I should say Sara’s nightmares. This is when the real Abby bares her blackened soul. But even after the tragedy occurs, we still find ourselves believing this diabolical character that Jennifer has created on screen. In her case, she has taken the emotions and thoughts of her characters and infused them into her portrayal in a veritable seamless fashion. There were times I wasn’t sure if I was going or coming because she was that phenomenal in her role.
To the bitter end, I wanted to believe right along with Sara that Abby is the person she claims to be. Without divulging too much, I merely want to state that Jennifer is what would be called the ultimate powerhouse actress, and anyone who has the opportunity to work with her is blessed to the nth degree. However, because of her massive on-screen presence, she can effortlessly upstage an actor or actress quite by accident. In the case of weak co-stars, this can be an issue that causes strife and unhealthy competition amongst the cast. Thankfully, in the case of this film, Jennifer never detracts from Francesca’s character (unless the script calls for it). It is a true testament to the prowess of both of these actresses that they work so splendidly together. Jennifer has such a significant ability that she brings out the very best of Francesca, and Francesca is able to hold her own against Jenifer’s resounding nature. Admittedly, their chemistry is tenuous at best (which is spot on for this film), and the conclusion is absolutely heart-wrenching. Again, I had a suspicion of how the film would end, but even I was shocked to see the conclusion between these two. Indeed, these two have quickly become some of my favorite actresses, and I plan to keep both eyes open for them in the future.
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