On the surface, “Snap Decision” sounds like any other “based on real events” movie designed to wring tears and time out of viewers. But actually, this Lifetime original represents a new breed of chick flick: it’s smart, it’s relevant and it plays to both maternal and feminist sensibilities. Writers Ara Watson and Sam Blackwell have carefully cultivated the true story of a young mother whose innocent family photographs are deemed pornographic and turned it into an engrossing cautionary tale that addresses, among other things, First Amendment rights and personal liberties. Under less capable hands, this provocative topic could have become a soap box melodrama.
Mare Winningham stars as Jen Bradley, a widow with three young kids struggling to hold things together. She’s done a fantastic job so far, but in the process has become somewhat of a control freak, keeping family and friends at a distance. The exception is her college friend Carrie Dixon (Felicity Huffman), a cancer survivor who has become her most trusted ally.
Carrie, a photographer, turns a work assignment into an excuse to visit Jen and her family. Excited by Carrie’s arrival, morning rituals in the Bradley house are disrupted and chaos ensues. The kids, ages three to seven, jump on the bed in abandon in various stages of undress as Jen tries to convince them all to get ready for school. Carrie, inspired by the free spirited moment, snaps several pictures. It’s a forgotten moment until the film gets developed. When an overly conscientious photo lab owner turns Carrie’s pictures over to the police, it sets off a chain of devastating events. Jen’s children are temporarily taken away from her and she is indicted under a grand jury for child abuse and child pornography.
Director Alan Metzger does an excellent job of juggling several issues at hand, not the least of which is providing a refreshingly honest depiction of home and family life. He also deftly shows the different reactions that these charges elicit and how easily someone’s life could be distorted when open for public interpretation.
As the maternal Jen, Winningham is utterly convincing as the nurturer who, besides trying to keep her children, worries about making sure her kids maintain a positive body image. She doesn’t want them to be ashamed or afraid. She also doesn’t want them exploited by the very people claiming to work in their best interest.
Huffman provides the right mix of righteous indignation and concern as Carrie. Although pic serves as a showcase for Winningham, Huffman carves out a memorable performance.
Editor Pamela Malouf keeps the film taut while lensing by Rhett Morita provides thought- provoking but non-exploitative images.