Mature in terms of production polish and pro performances, writer-director Rob Margolies' feature debut, "Lifelines" (until recently called "Wherever You Are"), stumbles in a familiar way: It crams in so many family dysfunctions and plot crises in search of cathartic impact that credibility is stretched to the breaking point.

Mature in terms of production polish and pro performances, writer-director Rob Margolies’ feature debut, “Lifelines” (until recently called “Wherever You Are”), stumbles in a familiar way: It crams in so many family dysfunctions and plot crises in search of cathartic impact that credibility is stretched to the breaking point. Tale of a New Jersey clan’s eventful day in and out of therapy looks destined for smallscreen exposure.

This Saturday finds the Bernsteins at each other’s throats, as usual. Mom Nancy (Jane Adams) is a perpetual nervous wreck, dad Ira (Josh Pais) passively withdrawn. College-bound son Michael (Robbie Sublett) is a stammering bookworm, slutty-acting teen daughter Meg (Dreama Walker) is endlessly hostile, and even filthier-mouthed Spencer (Jacob Kogan) is a Ritalin-taking kid with ADD who requires handcuffing to attend therapy sessions with Dr. Livingston (Joe Morton). Latter miraculously wrangles each family member into confessing deepest secrets — from closeted homosexuality to sexual abuse to manslaughter — in record time, using some tactics outlandish within his profession’s real-world ethical standards. An outrageous coincidence caps the script’s contrivances. Tech aspects are solid, but transfer screened at Mill Valley was less than bigscreen-worthy.

Lifelines

Production

A Kanbar Entertainment presentation of a Different Duck Films production. (International sales: Different Duck Films, Rumson, N.J.) Produced by Rob Margolies. Executive producers, Robert Fagenson, Andrew Margolies. Directed, screenplay by Rob Margolies.

Crew

Camera (color, HD), David Sperling; editor, Jason Stewart; music, Robert Miller; production designer, Leah MacLeod. Reviewed at Mill Valley Film Festival (U.S. Cinema), Calif., Oct. 11, 2008. Running time: 95 MIN.

With

Jane Adams, Josh Pais, Jacob Kogan, Robbie Sublett, Dreama Walker, Joe Morton.
Follow @Variety on Twitter for breaking news, reviews and more