Adaptation of bestseller “The Patron Saint of Liars” should pull big femme numbers for CBS — the tale of faith and everyday miracles unfolds with compelling drama, and Dana Delany delivers a standout perf in a portrait of a complex, tortured woman. But adaptation skips some plot elements, leaving viewers to make a leap of faith and sometimes logic.
Telepic begins with a miracle: In the early ’20s, feverish little June in the backwoods of Kentucky is on death’s door. Her Pa runs for the doctor, trips, and, as he’s lying in pain, the earth rumbles around him and releases hot bubbling water that cures his ankle. He brings June to the springs, and her fever disappears.
Flash forward to 1981. A pregnant Rose (Delany) leaves her husband and travels to a home for unwed mothers in Kentucky. Home is an old resort hotel that June’s parents built to house the sickly, once word about the “miracle” hot springs got around. But the springs have dried up, and the hotel has been given to the Catholic church.
Rose finds her niche in the kitchen, helping out wise Sister Evangeline (Sada Thompson) and attracting the kind and sincere local handyman, Son (Clancy Brown). But she’s private about her past. The smitten Son eventually proposes marriage. Rose, who wants to keep her baby, rushes Son off to the JP that night.
Rose and Son raise her little girl, Cecilia, and the adult June (Ellen Burstyn), who still lives adjacent to the old hotel, becomes another close friend of the little family.
Rose’s world is circumscribed and cold, but when a teen Cecilia (Nancy Moore Atchison) starts asking the wrong questions, and Rose’s first husband, Thomas (John Putch), shows up, things begin to quake.
Plot builds to melodramatic conclusion, with tugs at heartstrings and an uplifting climax.
Lynn Roth creates a script that revolves around themes of faith and everyday miracles — the birth of a child, the beauty of a hand-built chair. She slowly rolls out provocative facets of Rose, hooking the viewer, and her script intelligently builds in the first hour, hinting at secrets and possible motivations.
But holes in second half force the viewer to try to fill in plot gaps and relationships. Why does Rose walk out of her first marriage? What’s her relationship with her mother? And while Burstyn is merely a cameo, her character is essential.
Delany’s Rose is weak, strong, emotional and cold, and her performance is subtle, quietly sketching this woman who tries to work through guilt and come to terms with happiness.
Brown is all warm strength as Son, and Atchison also convinces as the precocious, loving and needy Cecilia.
Stephen Gyllenhaal’s direction successfully creates Rose’s enclosed world, and he gets nice perfs from Thompson and Burstyn. Cameraman Greg Gardiner gets the best from the North Carolina locations, and rest of the tech credits are tops.