Despite a sometimes plodding story, Michele Lee and real-life ex-husband James Farentino pull together a decent movie of the week from this true story of a battered wife and her attempts to free herself from the violence.
Lee, who also exec produced the project, plays Jessica Cochran, wife of Gary, adeptly portrayed by Farentino. Gary has an explosive and shifting temper, which when combined with his unemployment, makes for a trying life for his wife.
Telefilm opens with both partners speaking directly to the camera, setting the stage for what’s to come. Each returns to the screen throughout to move the story along. She is afraid to leave; he blames her for the punches he delivers.
Immediately, viewers are drawn into the fray. In an early scene, the family is moving to a new neighborhood when Gary notices a crowd across the street having a party. When the neighbors come over to introduce themselves, he embarrasses his wife and essentially breaks off the olive branch they came bearing.
The whole family walks on razors; they’re afraid their slightest move will set Daddy off. His violence is not limited to the wife– sometimes the kids are in line for abuse. Wisely, the production does not rely on the violence visually , limiting it merely to drive home a point.
Eventually, the battle with the neighbors turns into a shooting but in the court case that follows, charges against Gary are thrown out.
Following this incident, Jessica gets up the nerve to leave, which in turn sets Farentino on a violent mission to recapture his children and his marriage.
John Spencer delivers a good performance as Jessica’s boss, who comes to her rescue when she leaves Gary. Nonetheless, when Jessica, aided by the police and court, gets Gary to leave their house, the situation takes a turn for the worse.
Production is well done, although some plot twists and turns are pretty obvious.
Cindy Myer’s writing is at times moving and other times predictable and sappy. Yet using both Jessica and Gary to narrate during the picture adds another aspect to the project that helps to snare and build tension for the viewers.