×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Beyond the Blackboard

This Reagan-era fact-based story is undeniably stirring in a "To Sir, With Love" kind of way.

With:
Stacey Bess - Emily VanCamp

The Hallmark Hall of Fame isn’t known for controversy, though it’s latest movie is auspiciously timed — exalting teachers and the nobility of the homeless when both groups have come under siege as Republican lawmakers try slashing state and federal budgets. That said, this Reagan-era fact-based story is undeniably stirring in a “To Sir, With Love” kind of way, with a radiant Emily VanCamp as the caring young educator determined to reach homeless children. In other words, unless you’re a heartless bastard, “Beyond the Blackboard” ought to help sell Mother’s Day cards.

Stacey Bess (“Brothers and Sisters’?” VanCamp) is a Salt Lake City wife and mother who has harbored dreams of being a teacher. The only available position, alas, is overseeing homeless kids — lumped together in grades one through six — at a rundown facility where they’re warehoused with their parents.

“Six years of school did not prepare me for this,” Stacey laments to her understanding husband (Steve Talley) regarding an assignment her boss (Timothy Busfield) dismisses as “emergency schooling to transient students.”

Not surprisingly, the kids are hard to reach, the administration sees the whole exercise as an obligation, and the parents are skeptical. Yet after considerable frustration, Stacey begins to find avenues to connect with her charges — investing her spare time in redecorating the classroom, enlisting the adults to assist her (in a pre-Hillary Clinton “it takes a village” manner) and even taking one kid whose father gets booted out of the program into her own home.

Happily, a new administrator (Treat Williams) brings a more helpful attitude from above, while events at home somewhat complicate Stacey’s personal situation. For all that, the movie (ably directed by Jeff Bleckner from Camille Thomasson’s adaptation of Bess’ book) is refreshingly free of histrionics or fabricated wrinkles to heighten the drama.

Stacey represents one of those too-good-to-be-true movie teachers, but VanCamp possesses such innate likability that she can make that sense of commitment believable. Nor does it hurt that the producers did an impeccable job casting the various students, including Liam McKanna and Paola Andino as two of Stacey’s more significant pupils.

Despite the quarter-century lapse, the subject matter certainly feels like it could be unfolding right now: Children falling through fissures in the social safety net, while a teacher lobbies for resources to help the neediest and most at-risk kids.

With their semi-sweet undertones, Hallmark movies are usually designed to play in Peoria. Given the current environment, this one might be particularly well-suited — right now, anyway — to play in Wisconsin.

Beyond the Blackboard

Movie; CBS, Sun. April 24, 9 p.m.

Production: Filmed in New Mexico by Hallmark Hall of Fame Prods. Executive producers, Brent Shields, Gerald R. Molen; producer, Andrew Gottlieb; director, Jeff Bleckner; writer, Camille Thomasson; based on the book "Don't Love Nobody" by Stacey Bess.

Crew: Camera, Eric Van Haren Noman; production designer, John Willett; editor, Geoffrey Rowland; music, Jeff Beal; casting, Molly Lopata. 120 MIN.

Cast: Stacey Bess - Emily VanCampWith: Steve Talley, Timothy Busfield, Julio Oscar Mechoso, Nicki Aycox, Kiersten Warren, Treat Williams, Liam McKanna, Paola Andino, Mat Greer.

More TV

  • Syfy Cancels 'Nightflyers' After One Season

    Syfy Cancels 'Nightflyers' After One Season

    The George R.R. Martin drama “Nightflyers” has been canceled by Syfy after only one season. Based on the novella from the mastermind behind “Game of Thrones,” the show was seen as a big gamble for the NBCUniversal-owned cable network, as it represented the most expensive series it had ever developed. The network attempted to spark [...]

  • Batwoman Arrow

    The CW's 'Batwoman' Pilot Switches Directors, Adds Dougray Scott

    The CW has added veteran Scottish actor Dougray Scott to its “Batwoman” pilot as well as swapped in Marcos Siega for previous director David Nutter, Variety has learned. The pilot, which stars Ruby Rose as the eponymous caped heroine, is being helmed by DC TV head Greg Berlanti, and was penned by “Vampire Diaries” alum [...]

  • OG Review

    Review: 'O.G.' on HBO

    Jeffrey Wright, the most compelling reason to watch HBO’s new film “O.G.,” is among television’s best actors at switching between codes or manners of being. On “Westworld,” his timeline-toggling android swaps personae so delicately that his performance gains in resonance when recalled in retrospect. (Perhaps that’s why Wright has been so oddly underrated through the [...]

  • Nahnatchka Khan Writers Room

    Nahnatchka Khan Exits 20th Century Fox TV for Overall Deal at Universal

    Nahnatchka Khan has signed a four-year overall deal at Universal Television. The deal brings an end to the decade-plus Khan and her Fierce Baby Productions banner spent at 20th Century Fox Television. The move will see Khan exit from her role as showrunner on ABC comedy “Fresh Off the Boat,” which she also created. The [...]

  • David Ajala

    'Nightflyers' Star David Ajala Joins CBS Drama Pilot 'Under the Bridge'

    David Ajala has been cast in a lead role in the CBS drama pilot “Under the Bridge,” Variety has learned. In the project, when a scandal rocks the medical practice she runs with her husband and their friends, a surgeon rises to the occasion and takes the lead in trying to mend both the practice and [...]

  • A Man Walks Into the Cnn

    CNN Puts Former Sessions Aide in Newsroom Role

    Sarah Isgur Flores, a press aide to former US Attorney General Jeff Sessions, has been hired to help coordinate political coverage for CNN, a move that generated some pushback on social media Tuesday. Politico previously reported the CNN hire. Flores in the past has criticized CNN coverage, even going so far as to refer to [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content