×

Miracle in the Woods

CBS Sunday Movie brings on another touching vidfilm in the spirit of its recent prized cockle-warmer, last August's "The Price of Heaven." Loaded with effective characters and performers, a moving teleplay by Joe Slowensky, and Arthur Allan Seidelman's impressive direction, "Miracle in the Woods" offers that particularly scarce TV item, originality. Having Della Reese and Meredith Baxter among the topliners doesn't hurt. The skilled contributions of Patricia Heaton and Anna Chlumsky help the cause. But the startlingly winning Sanaa Lathan, playing the role of Reese as a young woman, simply shines. Actress has worked Off Broadway and has appeared in a scattering of pilots.

With:
Meredith Baxter, Della Reese, Patricia Heaton, Anna Chlumsky, Randy Brooks, Thom Gossom, Sanaa Lathan, David Hunt, Bill Nelson, Tim de Zarn, Mark Joy, Charles McLawhorn, Ed Grady, Ronn Carroll, Dee Thompson, David Dwyer, Nate Bynum, Rasool J'Ham, Jim Martin, Jon Huffman, Sharlene Thomas, Rainoldo Gooding, Sybil Simmons, Charity Jones, Tom Nowicki, Rebecca Koon, Angela Ray.

The complex plotting involves Baxter’s brittle character, loaded with private troubles, coming back to her small Southern home town for the funeral of her and her embittered sister Heaton’s mother, whom Heaton has taken care of these past years.

Mom’s will leaves everything to Heaton except a recliner chair for the single-minded Baxter. Not mentioned in the will is an all-but-forgotten pecan grove where it turns out that Reese, a slightly confused, aging recluse, lives in a cabin waiting for her son to come along. She spots Baxter’s fresh-faced teenager daughter Chlumsky and, mixed up, starts calling her by the name of a young woman who helped her years ago.

Slowensky’s drama spreads backward in time to the period when charmer Lathan, playing the young Reese, steps into the picture. She’s winsome, pretty and innocent, and she wants to meet a boy she can love. Picking out Randy Brooks, she marries him and drives truckloads of what she thinks is cotton seed sacks for him.

When she becomes pregnant and can’t work, an angry Brooks treats his wife rough and gives their young son away to neighbors. Troubles for everyone begin in earnest.

Slowensky’s teleplay, despite tying things up too neatly in the end, is admirable storytelling. There are melodrama and surprises, secrets are unrolled, the dialogue’s sharp, and Greg Gardiner’s fine lensing takes full measure of the story’s mood shifts.

Ernest Troost contributes an original score, and Bert Gladstein’s editing is fine. Director Seidelman draws out all the stops as the intricately planned story moves on, and production designer Vaughan Edwards shrewdly and definitively blends North Carolina location sites into their proper time zones.

Reese, depicting maternal yearning with conviction, easily dominates her scenes, and her tender scenes with grown-up son Thom Gossom are a gem. Baxter delivers a thoughtful, plausible characterization of a cornered woman trying desperately to control her own life, but Slowensky and Seidelman let Baxter down as the character caves in as her truths come out.

Heaton offers a pleasant, even reassuring, touch to the telepic, and Chlumsky presents a warm young woman who’s got heart. But it’s the little-publicized Lathan who breaks out of the crowd the minute she smiles at the camera. The actress hands the vidpic another dimension.

Miracle in the Woods

Sun. (26), 9-11 p.m., CBS

Production: Filmed in Wilmington, N.C., by Patchett/Kaufman Entertainment. Executive producer, Ken Kaufman; producer, Stephanie Hagen; co-producer, Tom Luse; co-producer/writer, Joe Slowensky; director, Arthur Allan Seidelman; camera, Greg Gardiner; editor, Bert Gladstein; production designer, Vaughan Edwards

Crew: sound, Carl S. Rudisill; music, Ernest Troost; casting, Junie Lowry-Johnson, Ron Surma.

Cast: Meredith Baxter, Della Reese, Patricia Heaton, Anna Chlumsky, Randy Brooks, Thom Gossom, Sanaa Lathan, David Hunt, Bill Nelson, Tim de Zarn, Mark Joy, Charles McLawhorn, Ed Grady, Ronn Carroll, Dee Thompson, David Dwyer, Nate Bynum, Rasool J'Ham, Jim Martin, Jon Huffman, Sharlene Thomas, Rainoldo Gooding, Sybil Simmons, Charity Jones, Tom Nowicki, Rebecca Koon, Angela Ray.

More TV

  • Snow

    Film House Germany's Gabriela Bacher To Exec Produce Witcraft's 'Snow' Series (EXCLUSIVE)

    L.A. and Berlin-based producer Gabriela Bacher, CEO of media company Film House Germany, is attached to executive produce Witcraft Filmproduktion’s mystery drama project “Snow,” selected for this year’s Co-Pro Series at the Berlinale Co-Production Market. Bacher, a former Fox International Productions executive and principal of Studio Babelsberg, joined the company in 2011 as both CEO [...]

  • Animation Company Riki Buys 'The Fixies'

    Animation Company Riki Buys 'The Fixies' Producer Aeroplane (EXCLUSIVE)

    Leading Russian animation company Riki Group, home of brands such as “Kikoriki” and “BabyRiki,” has acquired Aeroplane Prods., the producer of cartoon franchise “The Fixies.” In Berlin, Riki Group is selling “Finnick,” a feature film about a mischievous furry creature who plays pranks on the family who lives in his house. The company’s stand is [...]

  • Stateless

    Netflix Swoops In for Global Rights to Cate Blanchett Refugee Drama 'Stateless' (EXCLUSIVE)

    Netflix has swooped in and taken global rights outside Australia to the Cate Blanchett-starring and exec-produced refugee drama series “Stateless,” following its world premiere in Berlin this week. Australian public broadcaster ABC, which commissioned the six-part series, will air “Stateless” on March 1, with the streaming giant going out later this year. It is believed [...]

  • Dome 16

    Holland’s Big Blue Boards Norwegian NRK Sci-fi Series ‘Dome 16’ (EXCLUSIVE)

    “Dome 16,” a futuristic sci-fi climate drama from creator Thomas Seeber Torjussen and Norway’s Tordenfilm, has a new co-producer in Fleur Winters from Dutch production house Big Blue. It’s the second time the companies have joined forces, previously co-producing NRK’s popular teenage series “ZombieLars.” In addition to creating the series, International Emmy nominee Seeber Torjussen [...]

  • Lily Michael-Idov

    Latvia’s Tasse Film Boards Russian Spy Comedy Series ‘Pawns’ (EXCLUSIVE)

    Metrafilm’s Russian spy series project “Pawns,” pitching at this year’s CoPro Series event at the Berlinale, will be joined by Latvian co-producer Tasse Film. “Pawns” is the brainchild of writers Michael and Lily Idov, co-writers of 2018 Cannes Palme d’Or competitor “Leto,” and creators of two hugely popular Russian series in “Londongrad” and “The Optimists.” [...]

  • Libertad

    Beta Film Acquires New Movistar Plus Series ‘Libertad’ (EXCLUSIVE)

    MADRID — Beta Film has acquired international distribution rights to “Libertad,” the newly-titled banner Movistar Plus series, which encapsulates many of the original series production ambitions of Telefonica’s pay TV/SVOD service. According to Fran Araujo, head of content for Movistar Plus, “Beta is there for all our series from the beginning, nowadays, we’ve got a [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content