If the creators of this telepic intended to explore a pressing social issue, they don’t succeed. If they meant to tell an inspiring story about a woman overcoming great misfortune, they left out the inspiring parts. “Where Are My Children?” deals with a mother’s worst nightmare, but it’s probably too bland to capture a big share.
Marg Helgenberger stars as a divorcee who settles in Cape Stark, Ga., with her three young children in 1962. When she’s arrested on a petty charge, the judge makes an example of her.
After three months in an Atlanta jail, she returns to find that her kids have been sold into adoption by a ring headed by a local family court judge (Bonnie Bartlett). Thus begins the woman’s 24-year search for her children, and a string of bad luck that would make Job feel fortunate.
Though she holds up remarkably well, her efforts aren’t really uplifting. Justice is not served, and viewers don’t get inside this mother’s head or heart; for the audience, a 30-second hug during the predictable happy ending can’t make up for her devastating life.
Michael Zagor’s monotone script is filled with lines like “I can’t believe this, it’s like a bad dream.” The material calls for less restraint, but director George Kaczender plays it straight, manipulating the audience with tried and true tactics.
The vanilla performances are solid enough, with good character acting lending some necessary flavor. Helgenberger hits most of the right notes without rising above the script. The likable Christopher Noth stands out as one of her hubbies, while Corbin Bernsen plays a nice guy quietly and effectively.
Producer Ira Marvin lets some small period anachronisms slip by, and the production design by Josan Russo seems low-budget. Craig Safan’s dreary score relies on an annoying flute and tinkling piano.