23 October 2002 | budikavlan
Transcends the cliches of its genre
This movie epitomizes two telefilm genres (the Sunday Night Tearjerker and the Lifetime Movie) but towers above most examples of both. It aired as a two-parter; the first half told the story of a woman's murder by her husband and his eventual arrest for the crime, while the second concerned the custody battle over the couple's son between her sister (Bertinelli) and his parents (Huddleston and Fletcher).
The first half retains an admirable level of tension throughout, though the crime isn't ever really a mystery. Thankfully, the actual crime is not shown, though the filmmakers found a better way to convey its brutality: the final shot of the first half of the show is one of the most shocking sights I've ever seen on television.
The custody battle in the second part is less suspenseful but raises several interesting questions. The cultural bias by the killer's parents against the evil, urban, ethnic (Italian) family of the victim had some resonance in their son's marriage. Not to overgeneralize, but a friend of mine was married to a man from rural Indiana and his family was a LOT like the people in this film. The filmmakers clearly sided with wife's family on this point--the "moral" Hoosiers are both unattractive and unpleasant. The question of how their "heartland values" produced their monster of a son is never really addressed.
The performances are uniformly excellent and often surprising. Bertinelli and Chris Meloni as her husband prove to be far more than a couple of (very) pretty faces, as does Michael Ontkean as the cold blooded killer. It is important that this not get lost by being lumped in with the scores of similar but inferior TV movies.