4 October 2003 | muthafreakinmully
the most powerful made-for-tv movie i have ever seen
this is such a grim, heartbreaking, at times brutal movie, but i am very happy to have seen it for the fact it is so thought-provoking. this was made in the late 80s, and i remember seeing it with my grandmother in the early 1990s and wishing i had taped it. about ten years later i saw that it was in cable.
the coopers do not have a luxurious home, but the movie starts out with them living at least comfortable. christine lahti and jeff daniels (Michael) have paying jobs, and their children David (about 10) and Tina (about 5) are relatively happy as well. after a night out at a relatives house, they return to see their apartment has burned down. they stay for awhile with their respective relatives, but Michael has a strained relationship with his brother and it forces them out of the house. Thus begins their journey from living in a car, to a shelter, to public housing and then out on the street. Michael is forced to leave the family to look for work, and son David deals with his overwhelming feelings of embarrassment, anger and bitterness.
There is no happy ending in this movie. One person said it goes from bad to worse, and that's not a lie. The Coopers however, have enough love to go around, despite their hardships. But the performances by the actors playing Coopers are incredible. Christine Lahti is uniformly phenomenal as a mother whose decisions are driven by her desperation to keep her children warm and fed, and Jeff Daniels plays Michaels downward spiral so well. Kyndra Joy Casper was also terrific as Tina
But the standout performance, for me, was Lantz Landry who played David. I was blown away by him. His boyish enthusiasm and energy in the beginning slowly diminishes until he's somewhat of a shadow of his former self, sickly looking, disillusioned and embittered. He turns to drug dealing to raise money and harbors anger and resentment toward his father for leaving them until the very end. There is a particular scene between Lahti and Landry that is painful to watch, an outburst that occurs after they are forced to leave the public housing and Lahti blames him out of anger. He is a fabulous child actor (though since this was made in the eighties I'm sure he's well into his twenties now) and I wish he had appeared in more.
I would give this ten stars. This film evoked both thoughts and emotions from me. There's no beating around the bush in this movie, no sugar coating. It was flat out wonderful and the acting in this film was amazing.