Peter Nelson’s banal teleplay about an elementary school teacher of challenged students trudges on without conviction. Played like a star piece for exec producer Cathy Lee Crosby, “Untamed Love” won’t do anything for her thesping career.
Maggie (Crosby), living happily enough with devoted lawyer Dan (John Getz), begins working on a 6-year-old in her class, disturbed, dirty 6-year-old Caitlin (Ashlee Lauren).
The untalking and uncooperative Caitlin, daughter of brutish Mr. Eldridge (Gary Frank in a distinctive if not always credible change of pace), blossoms under Maggie’s tutelage.
The telefilm sputters along measuring Caitlin’s emotional growth, Maggie’s growing dependence on the girl and her backing away from any commitment with Dan.
Part of the vidpic entails attempts to keep Caitlin out of a state mental institution: Maggie has brought her out of the darkness, discovered her to be a normal child with a towering I.Q. and lots of emotional knots that Maggie deftly unties.
As she bores in on Caitlin, Maggie appears to leave the other members of the class to the well-meant tendings of her neophyte assistant, Miguel (Jaime P. Gomez).
There’s a strong implication that the bullying Mr. Eldridge and his daughter are having sex when Eldridge suggests they “play house” and she starts hemorrhaging the next day at school. Maggie rushes her to the hospital, Caitlin’s back living with Daddy, and the subject’s dropped.
Another problem with the script — not helped by Paul Aaron’s flat direction — is that Maggie’s a self-centered bore who thoughtlessly ignores other people’s feelings.
At one point, after a legal hearing, Maggie, Dan and Caitlin, happily celebrating a legal victory, ignore Eldridge, who’s standing right there; it’s this kind of unnatural behavior that helps kill the telefilm.
Crosby moves methodically, if not mechanically, through the Maggie role. Young Lauren is satisfactory as the tortured child, and Getz give his thankless part a surprising luster.
Frank seems rightfully to be searching for characterization, and Gomez, as Maggie’s assistant who has to do most of the work, is solid.
Director Aaron supplies little pacing or feasibility to the droning drama, which should be drenched in sentiment. Program has an sub-par afterschool-special look, and the camerawork and editing are only basic.