Rosemary does more than tell T.J. She spills the beans to understanding friends, turns to welfare since she can't work anymore and, unable to find the right substitute parents for T.J., goes public with their story. She tells the New York Daily News about her dilemma, appears on Jane Whitney's talkfest; then she and T.J. begin fruitlessly trying to choose from the replies.

Rosemary does more than tell T.J. She spills the beans to understanding friends, turns to welfare since she can’t work anymore and, unable to find the right substitute parents for T.J., goes public with their story. She tells the New York Daily News about her dilemma, appears on Jane Whitney’s talkfest; then she and T.J. begin fruitlessly trying to choose from the replies.

The story bears the seal of truth; nobody would buy it as fiction. T.J.’s therapist (Corey Parker) introduces them to his well-off parents, telling Rosemary that the two (Bruce Dern and Kate Nelligan, both right on target) would be interested in taking the boy.

But the magic world they enjoy in their beautiful beach house has an artificial tinkle to it, and their major decision to take on T.J. is sprung awfully fast.

The story of the lone mom trying to do what’s best for her only child is hardly new, but Rose, Hamilton and Elikann find nuances in Rosemary’s illness and character that turn the screw as tight, if not tighter than, the 1930s Ann Harding-Kay Francis-Ruth Chatterton self-sacrificers. And, because of the tone in which Rose has written the two main characters, there’s rightfully no teary, one-sided-farewell theatrics.

Secondary casting is a plus. S. Epatha Merkerson deals from strength as nurse Ruby, and RuPaul does a fine turn as Dede, Rosemary’s friend at a clinic. A blond Jenny O’Hara is choice as Rosemary’s dear friend Val, and Gail Strickland serves the telefilm too briefly as Rosemary’s therapist.

The engrossing production looks first-rate, with Eric Van Haren Noman’s camerawork outstanding, and Peter V. White’s editing superior. James Allen’s design for the vidpic is sharp, and Tom Scott furnishes a solid score for Rose’s poignant teleplay.

USA Pictures Original: A Mother's Prayer

(Wed. (2), 9-11 p.m., USA)

Production

Filmed in Brooklyn, N.Y., and Malibu by USA Pictures, MCA TV Entertainment and Lee Rose Prods. Executive producer-writer, Lee Rose; producer, Sally Young; director, Larry Elikann; camera, Eric Van Haren Noman; editor, Peter V. White; production designer, James Allen; art director, Leon Ranch; sound, Mark Hopkins McNabb (L.A.), Matthew Price (N.Y.); music, Tom Scott. #Cast: Linda Hamilton, Noah Fleiss, Bruce Dern, Kate Nelligan, RuPaul,S. Epatha Merkerson, Corey Parker, Jenny O'Hara, Gail Strickland, McNally Sagal, Aaron Lustig, Jane Whitney, Nancy Cassaro, Alex Kapp, James Arone, Claire Malis Callaway, Julie Garfield, Greg Trock, Ryan J. O'Neill, Barney McFadden, Elizabeth Davidson, Trish Doolan, Michael Kearns. Director Larry Elikann mines estimable depth from exec producer-writer Lee Rose's story about a mother who, learning she has AIDS, must decide what's what for her 8-year-old son after she dies. With Linda Hamilton turning in an affecting perf as stricken Rosemary and with Noah Fleiss simply terrif as her son, Elikann works his way through the tough course with appreciable skill. Widowed Rosemary (Hamilton) finds out why she's been feeling punk -- she has AIDS. In a commendably direct scene, son T.J. innocently asks her if they know anyone with AIDS. The issue's forced on her: She has to let him in on it.
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