“A Memory in My Heart” is every bit as banal as its title. This melodrama, about an amnesiac woman who unearths the secrets of her dark past, fails to ignite, thanks to a barrage of plot implausibilities. But the manipulative nature of its plot, involving a mother unjustly separated from her children, might engage the less demanding of female viewers.
The premise — a happily married woman discovers she has a bizarre, violent past — echoes the bigscreen Geena Davis/Renny Harlin bomb “The Long Kiss Goodnight”; and mother-child separation and reunion will be explored in the upcoming theatrical release “The Deep End of the Ocean.” While this telepic isn’t nearly as ludicrously overheated as the former, it has good stretches that fairly defy all credibility, as it attempts unconvincingly to update a hoary cliche of Westerns — the small town held in thrall by a bully who runs it with an iron fist.
Jane Seymour stars as Rebecca, a woman with both amnesia (she can’t remember anything further back than eight years ago) and a happy home life. But Rebecca and husband Joe’s (A Martinez) efforts to get pregnant have triggered in Rebecca a series of crippling headaches, panic attacks and flashbacks hinting at the past she has been unable to unearth.
At a grocery store, she faints and is revived at a nearby clinic. Though she ostensibly wants to discover what happened in her past, she bolts when the doctor starts asking questions, unwilling to let him help her.
Outside the clinic, she conveniently runs into an acquaintance from her past life (Cathy Lee Crosby), who even more conveniently just happens to have a bag Rebecca left with her all those years ago. (The scene in which Crosby quickly produces the bag for Rebecca is a howler — how many of your own possessions from eight years ago can you find in 10 seconds?)
Said bag provides a few tantalizing details from her past. For example, her name’s really Abby, and she already has three children living a few hours away. (Might not a doctor, examining her in preparation for her impending pregnancy, have noticed she’s already given birth a few times?)
And so, even though she’s suffering from fainting spells and panic attacks, Rebecca/Abby decides to trek, alone, for hours in her beat-up Geo to a small California town in search of — well, she’s not sure.
At this point, however, the audience is well ahead of Rebecca — she has an abusive ex-husband. We’re tipped off to that fact because he’s played by Bruce Davison, the current master of sensitive menace, and because every character in town warns her, flatly, “Go home.”
Seems Davison’s character, Chase, more or less runs the town, even though he’s just a high-school principal. He manages everything from hiring the sheriff to arranging for diner waitresses to disappear under mysteriously abrupt circumstances.
In a surreptitious meeting with her children, Rebecca finds that they believe her to be dead — and that she abandoned them.
This is the kind of town where the local newspaper ran a banner front-page story about her failure to show for a custody battle. Worse, the paper ran the custody battle story next to one about her cabin burning down the night before the hearing — and didn’t make any connection.
Rebecca’s not deterred, though she’s not particularly aggressive in gathering information, either, cutting off conversations abruptly and not pressing characters for information.
Hubby Joe shows up to lend momentary moral support, only to turn around and anti-climactically head back home. Rest assured, all those long-suppressed memories return in overheated dribbles, bringing Rebecca up to speed with the rest of us.
All that salvages this story are the strong, sensitive performances by Amanda Barfield, Colton James and Mika Boorem, as the children Rebecca comes to realize she had in her previous life. The young actors bring a commitment to their material that the adults here, clearly aware of the material’s inherent weakness, can’t muster.
One can’t help but imagine that the “actual events” that “inspired” this exercise bear virtually no relationship to what has been committed to film. Tech credits are adequate, though many of the optical and stylistic effects used in the flashbacks run to the cheesy side.