More Than I Expected
This movie came to my attention thanks (many thanks) to a comment on one of my reviews. Thank-you Sally Silverscreen of https://18cinemalane.com/. In reading the brief synopsis I thought I was in for a juicy soap opera/romance along the lines of The Scapegoat or Barbara Stanwick’s No Man of Her Own. The first scene challenged my preconceived expectations when it opens as two adults are discussing the death of someone who appears to be the eponymous Caroline. The rest of the movie is told in a flashback beginning 2 or 3 decades earlier.
An attractive young woman appears at the door of a mansion and claims to be the long-believed dead daughter of the house. Suspiciously just in time to claim her part of an inheritance. Is she an imposter and a scammer? Seems likely. And yet it isn’t really about that. Whether she is or isn’t it becomes clear as she interacts with the rest of the family that she is a good person and very smart and capable. Further, she seems to be on a mission to improve the lives and futures of her two young possible step-siblings. The young daughter is stricken with cerebral palsy and spoiled and overly protected by her mother. She is treated like a pet or a baby to the point that her parents don’t even know she can read let alone put her own coat on. They expect her brother to be her constant companion. He is destined to be her caretaker when their parents are no longer able to. So he is trapped and isolated as well, with no friends, future prospects, or chance of happiness.
Caroline’s developing relationship with the children and with the other family members, her conflict with the mother’s wrong-headed ignorant notions of how to treat her children, her brave strategies to help the young kids, and the complex relationships among the family members add up to a compelling drama. To add to this we have deeply interesting and complex characters (especially the children) and the overarching mystery of who is Caroline really, and how and why did she come to this family. The answer is revealed near the end in a letter to the boy and it is not shocking but quite touching. The final bookend scene in which all is revealed as to Caroline’s accomplishments up to her death, the impact she made on the 2 children, as well as the entire community and beyond, is poignant and beautiful.
Of course, the whole plot is wildly implausible, and there are certainly some unanswered questions. There was some drama and suspense created at the expense of common sense and established characterization. There is a whiff of Lifetime Movie Network about this Hallmark Hall of Fame production. But so many positives completely outweigh the flaws and make it very deserving of its 1990 Emmys for Best Direction and Best Made for Television Movie. Not to mention Patricia Neal and Dorothy Macguire adding their considerable cachet in small but key roles. I highly recommend seeking it out. It isn’t hard to find and is free on YouTube and Amazon Prime.
July 11, 2022