Glenn Close and Christopher Walken return as Sarah and Jacob Witting in a sequel to the 1991 “Sarah, Plain and Tall,” and it’s a welcome occasion. Unhesitatingly sentimental, “Skylark” pushes for fundamental truths; it’s a tasteful TV movie with its heart on its sleeve.
Kansas farmer/widower Jacob and his bride-by-letter Sarah from Maine have been together for two years since Sarah hit the burg (and the first telefilm hit around 22 million households, more than any “Hallmark” opus up to that point).
It’s 1912 and Jacob’s two youngsters, Caleb and Anna (Christopher Bell, Lexi Randall in admirable repeats of their original roles), now love Sarah as if she were their real mother; all’s fiercely romantic and hunky-dory.
But drought sets in, other farmers abandon their land and fire wipes out the barn. Sarah dreams of the greenery of Maine and of the sea and, since it’s telegraphed several times along the way, accedes when Jacob insists she take the kids to Maine while he fights for the farm.
Under producer Joseph Sargent’s effective direction, the separation works. Her free-spirited aunts (the amusing, barefooted eccentrics played gently but definitively by Tresa Hughes, Elizabeth Wilson and Lois Smith) and her thoughtful brother William (James Rebhorn) are reminders of the life she once led and offer Jacob’s kids a look at a life they’ve never known.
The telefilm flashes back and forth between lonely, hard-working, long-suffering Jacob on the parched land and comfortable Sarah, who shows little sign of thinking of Jacob while she luxuriates in an ocean village town. The device drains some sympathy from the character, but scripter MacLachlan, Sargent and Close rise above the problem and, when Jacob and Sarah meet again, there’s a satisfactorily emotional reunion.
The cast is superb and the Kansas and Maine location filmings come off as appropriate to designer Ed Wittstein’s locales and assured period representations.
Michael Fash’s golden lensing, Mike Brown’s surehanded editing and David Shire’s spare score are plusses. Costumes by Van Broughton Ramsey and Jim Ercherd give the vidpic a real boost. Other tech credits are A-1.