Hallmark’s latest just-in-time-for-Mother’s Day movie lands squarely in the hallowed franchise’s sweet spot, even if its plot, in greeting-card parlance, is of the “You’ve been like a mother to me” variety. Marcia Gay Harden delivers a restrained, affecting performance as a woman whose well-manicured life is disrupted by the arrival of her troubled teenage nephew, in a production that hardly ranks among Hallmark’s best but is surely better than some of its recent misfires.
“The OC’s” Taylor Handley plays Bobby, who arrives at the doorstep of his aunt Vicki (Harden), just as she’s preparing to go work on her long-gestating novel. The child of Vicki’s troubled brother, Bobby has haunted eyes that suggest he has abused.
Vicki gradually begins to win the boy’s trust and help him face his past, while her somewhat clueless mother (Kate Nelligan) continues to make apologies for what might have transpired. Meanwhile, there’s the question of whether single Vicki can adapt to parenting and what that might mean for the dashing writing partner (Thomas Gibson, with an inconsistent accent) with whom she’s working.
Sensitively directed by Peter Levin, the script by Susanna Styron and Bridget Terry — who last collaborated on Hallmark’s lyrical “Back When We Were Grownups” — is devoid of real surprises. Inevitably, Bobby’s reclamation — and its impact on Vicki’s neatly ordered world — will surely have its own rewards, culminating in the by-now familiar notion that family is what you make of it.
Still, with Harden and the talented cast — which includes Marian Seldes as a literary diva and Regina Taylor as a helpful therapist — it’s a sober enough journey, filled with family ghosts, warmth and earnestness. And even if the “Hall of Fame” hasn’t always merited that label in recent years, presentation No. 227 provides another reminder why it remains a welcome haven for character-driven movies at a time when broadcast webs have left the genre looking as forlorn as poor Bobby.