Chris (Gosselaar), 19, rejected by his family, hopes to go to college and into forestry once he’s out of the Army Reserves. Holly (Phillips), 14, living with her divorced, protective mother Donna (Talia Shire) and her brother, runs with an older crowd and soon attaches herself to a reluctant Chris.
Donna’s dead set against Chris because of his age, and she and Holly are at odds over him. When she forbids them to see one another, and boots Chris out of her yard, Holly inveigles a doubtful Chris, whose family life’s a mystery until later, to run off to the promises of California. The trip West, with the couple penniless, avoiding the law, a lecherous trucker (Michael Dempsey) and other routine incidents, shows them life won’t be easy.
Once in Southern California there are no answers except a fortuitous offer from the Hollywood Outreach Program, which they pass up. They can do better than that. Bad luck hits hard, but Chris can’t go home because he’s AWOL, and Holly won’t leave Chris — they’ve discovered they’re really in love.
Writer Hill injects helpful examples of Holly’s immaturity along the way, and instances of Chris’ surprising strengths. Laneuville brings out the characters’ facets with an assured eye, and the actors reward him with sensitive, honest interps of young people fighting hopelessness.
Variations of the story of young people making it on the streets have been told in vidpics for years, and it remains a vital subject as a reminder to parents and to their offspring how frightening life can be.
The tales do show youngsters some of the perils of being alone in the big city, and how drugs and sex drive the underground.
For that reason, the telefilm’s warning messages, retold by Hill’s script, need repeating. And Hill establishes good secondary characters following out the plotline; that’s a plus.
Shire does a superior job as the understandably tormented mother, Ever Carradine is good as a hooker, and Heather Gottlieb’s strong as the treacherous Rosie. Mark Pellegrino’s solid as the crooked owner of an eatery, and Jennifer Griffin in her brief shot at playing Chris’ mom bitterly sums up his entire life’s problems and his need for Holly. His innocence as s delivery boy’s understandable, but including a whopping emotional tumble after earning money on the street plays to melodrama; there are legit jobs available.
Technically the production’s a whiz. Steven Shaw’s imaginative camerawork beautifully covers the tender moments between the principals and looks squarely at the seaminess of life on L.A. streets, and Stephen Lovejoy’s editing builds up the emotional jolts. Chester Kaczenski’s production designs are on target.