This fact-based, feel-good/overcoming-adversity vidpic is fairly innocuous and predictable (i.e., the underdog wins) and almost before its midway point, the dramatic tension is so minimal that the ending is a fait accompli. Nonetheless, those who enjoy movies that are superficially uplifting or who may be saturated with football will be satisfied.
Divorced authoress Margaret Gibson (Meredith Baxter) is a devoted, sensitive yet altogether eccentric mother to third-grader Aaron Gibson (Keegan MacIntosh). Yet when she’s under stress, she is nearly subsumed by paranoid-schizophrenic episodes, during which parent and child switch roles and Aaron becomes her caretaker.
When she lands in the hospital for observation, Aaron spends the night alone at home. A social worker (Michael Rogers) alerts Aaron’s father, Stuart Singer (Nick Mancuso), who hasn’t seen his son in nearly eight months. Soon a battle for permanent custody ensues.
Under the guidance of Dr. Teplitsky (the wonderful John Kapelos), who believes she has been misdiagnosed and overmedicated, Margaret begins the journey back to emotional health.
In the vidpic, exec produced by Marian Rees and produced by Bob Gray, the essential plotline and acting are commendable and on the surface plausible, but some questions emerge: If Margaret was diagnosed as a paranoid schizophrenic years earlier, how did she end up marrying and gaining custody of a child? Also, if Singer feels his troubled former spouse is bad news for the progeny, why would he wait years, literally, to fight for custody?
Baxter does an admirable job as the pill-popping, Diet Pepsi-swigging woman on the edge. Her performance seems over-the-top during her “episodes,” like the one where she smashes an alarm clock, but she shines in the therapy sessions with Kapelos.
Director John Kent Harrison draws a strong and endearing performance from young MacIntosh, who shares the bulk of the telefilm with Baxter and emerges as the real hero of this tale.
Peter Silverman’s script only gives glimpses of what it might be like to descend into the depths of despair, but it is never clearly explained what trips off these episodes or what might be the psychological basis for them. However, Silverman does a fine job of delineating the relationship between mother and son.