It is nearly impossible to watch CBS’ “Broken Promises: Taking Emily Back” without feeling powerful emotions when the indigent parents hand over Emily to a well-to-do couple and the toddler cries for mama. However, such heart-wrenching scenes consume the vidpic from producer/director Donald Wyre, and the teary feel throughout makes this tough to swallow for two hours.
Beyond the truly depressing saga, this piece has bright spots, most notably the presence of Cheryl Ladd. She plays Pam Chaney, who’s frustrated over her inability to have a child. She and hubby Sean (Robert Desiderio) seemingly have everything — nice home, loving relationship, stability — except kids; adoption becomes their next option.
And no ordinary adoption, but one using a slimy lawyer (Tim Ransom) brokering a deal involving a homeless couple (Polly Draper, D. David Morin) who cannot properly care for Emily, their small child.
Christopher Canaan and Vickie Patik’s script cuts right to the chase; the deal between the two couples comes quickly, allowing plenty of time to follow the emotional trauma of a such a life-changing transaction.
The scene in which they first hand over the child is masterful, with one of the Brauns — Amanda, Megan or Samantha — giving director Wyre as real a cry for her mother as could ever be replicated.
Morin plays the homeless role without stability and loaded with intimidation, the way it should be, but Draper’s role of the separated mother gets lost in the shuffle here. But maybe that’s due to Ladd’s command of the screen.
Producers warn viewers that this is “inspired by real events,” as opposed to a strictly factual treatment.