Marlo Thomas’ star turn as a grief-stricken mother directed unflinchingly by Lee Grant goes on far too long. What’s intended to be a tender, ghost-tinged vision becomes pretty tough to swallow.
Jessie (Thomas) and Sam Yates (Peter Strauss in his most restrained, affecting role in some time) live on a New England farm with Sam’s mom Tobie (Frances Sternhagen, in one of her patented no-nonsense-mother parts), and their three children; older daughter Anna (Leelee Sobieski) and the 5-year-old twins, Meggie (Courtney Chase) and Jamie (Matthew Kelly).
Telegraphed ahead is that Jamie isn’t long for this world, but when he accidentally dies, Anna and Sam feel guilty for their own reasons. Jessie’s affected the most because she didn’t answer Jamie’s call for help. After his death, she begins seeing him around the house, mostly in the attic where she paints.
Not the quietest woman in the world, she clumps around in that attic in the middle of the night, slams doors and talks with Jamie. Sam hears her mumbling; when she explains it to him, he tries reasoning with her. In a sober confab with Sam and Tobie, she insists she’s been with Jamie; they lay it to grief. She does see a minister, but no one thinks to seek psychological help; sorrow can be its own contender.
Telefilm is so slick, it slides. They’re supposed to be broke, but Tobie munches macadamia nuts and Jessie won’t let Sam sell Anna’s foal — it’s never explained how they get money to make up the difference. Tobie does the cooking while Sam works alone out in the fields; Jessie plays with the kids and paints. It’s a glossy, sentimental account of woe.
Thomas limns the role with seamless, camerawise know-how, and Kelly all but swipes his scenes with his luminous, blue eyes and wondering glances.
Jean-Baptiste Tard’s production design’s professional coziness is lovely. Billy Williams’ camerawork is terrif, as is the editing by Evan Lottman and Phillip Schopper. David Shire’s appropriate score ties up the package.
‘Disclosure’: Tech over sex.