America Undercover” and HBO offer a curious, inferential testament to murder victim Emily Stuart, mother of producer-director-documentarian Charles C. Stuart , who as narrator confesses he isn’t used to emotional hangups. A fascinating exam of part of a family, “My Mother’s Murder” builds effectively before the inevitable letdown; docu seems a catharsis as well as a tell-all.
Facts of the case are that divorced Emily Stuart, mother of two grown men and living alone in the family house in Princeton, stepped into her basement on peaceful Sunday afternoon in the course of her backyard gardening chores.
An unknown assailant stabbed her five times in the back, and narrator Stuart, living with his own family in New England, learned about the horror when his brother, living in Princeton, phoned him after the body was found.
Stuart’s docu relives the event as his camera prowls the house and ominous music permeates the audio. A couple of neighbors speak of the dead woman, Stuart interviews Princeton folks startled by the murder and program studies territory that had been familiar to Mrs. Stuart.
Home movies and photos show a pleasant-looking woman, and Stuart’s memories, melded with those of her sisters and brother and acquaintances, evoke a spirited , no-nonsense individual who seems to have had no enemies.
But Stuart notes that the police thought perhaps she had known her killer and that some folks in the town had their own ideas about the murder–that maybe someone close had done the dreadful deed.
Docu reenacts Stuart’s chase after clues and after memories, but his adult brother never appears.
Viewers’ conjectures are unavoidable, but Stuart settles on what satisfies the law: A demented man arrested for stabbing another woman in the vicinity probably did it. The case remains hanging and Stuart, unaccustomed to unpleasantness, as he notes, reveals how human he is as he grieves.
Program is a profound memorial to a distinct personality who, through all her good times and happy days, remains a sad figure who died a lonely death. The polished docu stings with its feelings of anger and helplessness and with implications.