Purportedly fact-based, “Sin and Redemption” is a lot less lurid than advance promos or the title would indicate. Thanks to sharp script, direction, music and acting, many viewers might forgive the kitchen-sink plot, in which the standard vidpic plot devices of rape, spousal abuse and a potentially fatal child illness combine most implausibly.
Jim McDaniels, the rich new kid in town, develops a thing for carhop Billy Simms and wants to marry her, even though she has a past — she’s been raped and is pregnant.
Jim treats his new bride adoringly, so imagine her surprise upon discovering several years later that he’s the rapist and the father of her child. But by then he’s gone up and down the hill from rotter to prince, and back.
Story, written by Ellie Ashton and revealed in flashback by Billy, unravels slowly; the audience doesn’t know Jim’s secret until she finds out, several years into their marriage and nearly the end of the film.
By which time, Jim isn’t the Prince Charming he was when they married, now discouraging Billy from continuing her education and having gotten progressively surly, possessive and violent as he chugs the suds.
Secondary storyline has to do with their daughter’s illness, forcing Billy’s discovery (when, prior to a kidney transplant operation, tissues match) that he is the blood father. Revelation leads to a sudden upsurge of nobility in Jim, and sudden burst of hokiness — as well as show’s best line, to Billy’s self-righteously religious father: “Daddy, the Lord knows what a windbag you are!”
Cynthia Gibb turns in strong and believable perf as Billy, growing from callow teen to put-upon mother. Richard Grieco seems pleasant enough as Jim until he starts brooding, and Cheryl Pollack is good as Billy’s sister.
Ralph Waite nicely underplays Billy’s father, with Chapelle Jaffe as her mother, and Concetta Tomei as Jim’s snobbish mother.
Place and time are unspecified. Well-chosen soundtrack music (Elvis, Johnny Mathis, blues, gospel, faux-“West Side Story”) hints at late ’50s/early ’60s, though there are some more contemporary recordings, as well. Inclusion of Louis Armstrong’s “What a Wonderful World” as the daughter returns from hospital is a bit much, however.
Story is filmed through what appear to be layers of gauze to effect a dreamlike look; some bad looping in a few scenes is the only noticeable tech drawback.