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.

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.

In From the Night

CBS, Sun. April 23, 9 p.m.

Production

Filmed in Santa Fe and Albuquerque by Hallmark Hall of Fame Prods. Executive producers, Richard Welsh, Brent Shields; director, Peter Levin; writers, Susanna Styron, Bridget Terry.

Crew

Camera, Eric Van Haren Noman; editor, Tina Hirsch; music, Mark McKenzie; production designer, Doug Kraner; casting, Phyllis Huffman. Running time: 120 MIN.

With

Vicki Miller - Marcia Gay Harden Bobby Miller - Taylor Handley Vera - Kate Nelligan Nora - Marian Seldes Dr. Gardner - Regina Taylor Aidan - Thomas Gibson Rob Miller - Mackenzie Astin
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