Judges, lacking evidence to rule otherwise, keep setting child molesters free. Crusading Shari Karney (Melissa Gilbert) comes to the defense of the defenseless in a melodramatic, fact-based story co-executive produced by Karney herself.
With her first case of purported incest, Karney begins to see and hear disturbing images that she can’t identify. She leaps into the witness box and throttles the accused, which the judge (Kenneth Welsh) terms “the most shocking display of unprofessionalism I have ever witnessed in my 22 years on the bench.”
A court-appointed psychologist (Ellen Burstyn) draws from Karney long-surpressed memories of her incestuous relationship with her dad (Dick Latessa).
Her dad, her psychiatric social worker mother (Shirley Douglas) and her spineless older sister (Patricia Kalember) deny all; Karney’s boyfriend (Stewart Bick), feels that her sudden immersion in incest cases takes priority over her relationship with him, and moves out.
Teaming with another obsessive attorney (Kate Nelligan), Karney crusades to overturn the statute of limitations on incest cases, and comes up with the concept of allowing victims to sue whenever they suddenly remember purported incest.
Susan Nanus’ script ignores or pooh-poohs controversial aspects of such bases of accusation, simply asking the audience to accept Karney as smarter, more insightful and more concerned with victims’ rights than are the judicial and legislative systems.
On those terms, it works, though other observers might see Karney as a person who, however well-intended, simply ruins the lives of many possibly innocent adults, including her own family, as she strong-arms her bill through the legislature.
Gilbert turns in a teeth-gnashing perf under Bill Corcoran’s direction, which is probably appropriate to her character.
Others are more subdued, with Nelligan, Burstyn, Latessa, et al., turning in fine, unflashy work.