Though it doesn’t offer many plot twists and sometimes features a preachy tone, “Yesterday’s Children” is a strong vehicle for CBS’ resident frontier doc, Jane Seymour, and should succeed in pulling on the heartstrings of those who can’t bear to watch innocent children scarred by an emotionally bankrupt and violent parent. As it moves along, the storyline plays it a bit safe, going for a sugary ending, but that’s not really a valid complaint considering the script is based on a true story.
Playing two roles requires a delicate touch, and Seymour, who does double duty here, handles the job extremely well. In the States in the present day, she’s Jenny Cole, a mom, wife and assistant to her architect husband (Clancy Brown), who begins to have vivid daydreams of a large Irish brood living in poverty back in 1930. Here, she’s Mary Sutton, a quiet but strong-willed mom trying to keep her kids away from her horrifically abusive, alcoholic spouse.
Based on the life of Jenny Cockell, who wrote a book about her dreams and how they eventually became part of reality in a reincarnated sort of way, Seymour can’t seem to shake these dreams and, instead, they increase in their frequency and realism. Though she has a high-school-age son who’s not looking to become a big brother, Seymour becomes unexpectedly pregnant and both her doctor and frustrated husband believes these dreams are due to hormonal changes and not visits from a past life.
Brown’s character is at first a bit one-note, endlessly chirping about how Seymour’s visions are nothing to get worked up, especially after she misses several meetings that could have a negative impact on his new business. But, eventually, he becomes more supportive, realizing that these are not just mindless fantasies but actual real-life experiences that Jenny is somehow bringing back to a more conscious level.
After visiting a sympathetic hypnotherapist, Seymour heads off to Ireland and eventually meets up with Sutton’s oldest son, Sonny (Hume Cronyn). At 89, Cronyn has all of his acting chops intact and brings the best out of Seymour’s perf, too. She only wants to share what she remembers of what life was like for Sonny when he was 13 and asked by his mother, Mary, to keep the children together before her impending death.
Tech credits are all fine, and filming in Ireland gives the telepic an added sense of realism.