NEW YORK–Unmercifully unbalanced in story content but dramatically and emotionally rich, “A Mother’s Right: The Elizabeth Morgan Story,” is a quality telefilm that should draw good ratings thanks to a powerful performance by Bonnie Bedelia.
“A Mother’s Right” is based on the well-publicized story of the court battle by D.C. plastic surgeon Elizabeth Morgan to keep her child away from her ex-husband, Dr. Eric Foretich, who she maintains sexually abused their daughter.
Bedelia turns in a worthy performance as Morgan, a successful surgeon who puts her career on hold to battle her husband. The court declines to suspend her husband’s visitation rights with their daughter, Hilary, because of a lack of evidence supporting the abuse claims.
Morgan continually refuses to produce the child for her husband and is found in contempt of court by an unsympathetic judge.
While the courts have never determined that Hilary (newcomer Caroline Dollar) was abused by her father, this docudrama all but puts him in jail.
Each bit of evidence unveiled in this telefilm backs up Morgan’s case. For example, a visit with Foretich’s first wife reveals that their daughter–Hilary’s half-sister — also suffered abuse and appears to have similar scars. This evidence was suppressed in a federal court case that was eventually overturned.
Terence Knox handles the role of Dr. Foretich superbly, providing a portrait of a man who appears to be lying through his teeth with every comment.
However, despite what appears to be solid evidence that the father-daughter visitations should be suspended, the courts, especially one presided over by Judge Dixon (Al Wiggins), refuse to rule in her favor. When it’s clear Morgan will be sent to jail if she does not provide Hilary for a visit, Morgan sends the child abroad with her parents (Patricia Neal and Rip Torn).
The telefilm provides an emotional rollercoaster ride for viewers, who will not want to get off until the last judge’s gavel is pounded.
Technically the project is first rate. Writing is tight and moves the project along smoothly. Drama draws on the heart strings without becoming overly sweet. Linda Otto’s direction is fluid and the acting brings this project home.