A Hallmark Hall of Fame telepic with a maudlin tag like "Crossroads: A Story of Forgiveness" seems like the usual pre-sweeps primer. In fact, "Crossroads" starts off in sensational, TV-movie fashion and looks as if it's all just an elaborate cautionary tale about the dangers of teen speeding.

A Hallmark Hall of Fame telepic with a maudlin tag like “Crossroads: A Story of Forgiveness” seems like the usual pre-sweeps primer. In fact, “Crossroads” starts off in sensational, TV-movie fashion and looks as if it’s all just an elaborate cautionary tale about the dangers of teen speeding. But the pic delves a little deeper than that and offers a few surprises, not the least of which is its star, Dean Cain.

The former Man of Steel demonstrates here that he can do some serious emotional lifting, too, giving a very affecting performance as Bruce Murakami, a man who loses his wife and daughter in a fiery car accident. Based on the real-life account of one man’s tragic loss and subsequent landmark court case, pic is helped greatly by a supporting cast of up-and-coming young actors who deliver take-notice performances.

The ideal life for the Murakami family is suddenly shattered one day when mom, Cindy, and their 11-year-old adopted daughter, Chelsea, are killed in a particularly horrific traffic accident. As if their sudden deaths weren’t crushing enough, the initial police report lists Cindy, a very cautious driver, at fault. What seems like a small bureaucratic detail becomes a point of contention for Bruce, who is desperate to make some kind of sense of the tragedy. He’s not alone in his grief — his two sons are also suffering, but none of them seem able to help one another. The eldest, Josh (Ryan Kennedy) retreats back into his familiar college routine, while Brody (Landon Liboiron), a happy and creative 15-year-old, becomes withdrawn.

Bruce can’t see the dysfunction in his own family for all of his anger, despite the help and guidance of family friend Melissa (Julie Warner). When he learns of witnesses who report seeing street racing at the time of the crash, Bruce enlists the help of feisty prosecutor Erin Teller (Peri Gilpin). Bruce’s crusade for justice takes over his life, and his relationship with Brody becomes even more strained. As the case against 17-year-old speeder Justin Gutierrez (Shiloh Fernandez) goes to trial, Bruce is stunned to discover that the focal point of all of his anger and resentment is a young, upstanding teen not at all unlike his own son, whose life also has been destroyed by the accident. Instead of retribution against Gutierrez, Bruce now wants find a way for everyone to heal.

Cain’s Bruce doesn’t have any one moment of realization; he’s a guy stumbling his way through tragedy, grabbing what consolation he can. His journey is messy and at times aggravating, which, for a director, can be particularly challenging.

John Kent Harrison, who has a lot of experience with the Hallmark Hall of Fame franchise, offers straightforward storytelling and camerawork. Just when it feels like Gutierrez’s public confessions could quickly turn into the traveling redemption tour or some twisted form of revenge, Harrison returns the focus to the process of grieving. Grief, it seems, doesn’t really end so much as it evolves.

Fernandez, who bears a strong resemblance, acting chops and all, to Joaquin Phoenix, is a crucial part of the story’s success. Without his believability, the pic wouldn’t work. Although Liboiron and Kennedy have smaller parts, their performances are equally affecting.

One beef, and a big one at that, is that the movie gives the impression that Bruce’s ultimate forgiveness and Gutierrez’s redemption happens in a rather short amount of time. In real life, the case and its ensuing ramifications took three years to unfold.

Crossroads: A Story of Forgiveness

CBS; Sun. April 22, 9 p.m.

Production

Filmed in Canada by BPI-Road Prods. and Hallmark Hall of Fame Prods. Executive producer, Brent Shields, producers, Andrew Gottlieb, Jim Head; director, John Kent Harrison; writers, Peter Hunziker, Cynthia Riddle, Oliver Goldstick, based on a story by Hunziker and Riddle;

Crew

Camera, Jean Lepine; editor, Henk van Eeghen; music, Lawrence Shragge; casting, Molly Lopata, Coreen Mayrs, Heike Brandstatter. Running time: 120 MIN.

Cast

Bruce Murakami - Dean Cain Erin Teller - Peri Gilpin Brody Murakami - Landon Liboiron Justin Gutierrez - Shiloh Fernandez Josh Murakami - Ryan Kennedy Melissa - Julie Warner Cindy - Chelah Horsdal Chelsea - Katie Pezarro
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