×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Abducted: The Carlina White Story

Director Vondie Curtis-Hall delivers an engaging original movie for Lifetime based on the true story of a baby abduction -- the first such reported case in a New York hospital -- where the kidnapping is the least of the drama.

With:
Ann Pettway - Aunjanue Ellis
Netty/Carlina White - Keke Palmer
Joy White - Sherri Shepherd
Carl White - Roger Cross
Cassandra - Afton Williamson
Young Joy - Heather-Claire Nortey
Young Carl - Eli Goree

Director Vondie Curtis-Hall delivers an engaging original movie for Lifetime based on the true story of a baby abduction — the first such reported case in a New York hospital — where the kidnapping is the least of the drama. “Abducted: The Carlina White Story” is as much about class struggle, family bonds and nature vs. nurture as it is about a heinous crime. Dynamic performances by the pic’s three female leads carry the movie, but a clear-cut happy-ending family-reunited movie this ain’t.

The story begins in 1987, when teenage mom Joy White (Heather-Claire Nortey), with teen husband Carl (Eli Goree) at the ready, gives birth to their daughter Carlina at a Harlem hospital. Not far away, Ann Pettway (Aunjanue Ellis) is distraught after suffering her third late-term miscarriage. When Joy brings Carlina back to the hospital a few weeks later because of a fever, a scheming Pettway, dressed as a nurse and looking for a baby — any baby — encourages the young mom to go home and rest. The abduction soon garners national attention. But even as milk cartons with Carlina’s picture on it sit on the kitchen table, Pettway’s family assumes that the cute infant now named Netty is indeed her own.

Over the years, Joy and Carl’s relationship crumbles under their mutual grief, but neither ever stops looking for their daughter. Pettway, a recreational drug user, is an inconsistent, sometimes volatile, but ultimately doting parent.

At 16, Netty/Carlina (Keke Palmer) becomes pregnant, and, in order to get prenatal care, needs her social security and birth certificates, neither of which Pettway can produce. Pettway compounds the birth-certificate mystery with tales of finding Netty as a baby on her doorstep. Further digging eventually brings Joy, Carl and their daughter together after 23 years, and DNA tests prove she is indeed the long-lost Carlina. The problem, however, is that after having lived a lie for so long, Netty has trouble reconciling with the truth.

Writer Elizabeth Hunter has crafted a compelling story of a tragic crime that deftly touches on themes of hope, redemption and victimization without being preachy. In a reality-TV world, this type of story is salacious fodder, but Hall holds back on the Maury Povich-like DNA-results drama and instead focuses on the repercussions of life-altering events.

None of the actors play the stereotypical victim, especially Ellis, whose powerhouse performance takes what seems like a typical villain and gives her a murky dimensionality. Similarly, Sherri Shepherd as the adult Joy is a perfect blend of power, love, rage and heartbreak. Palmer rounds out the stellar cast as the emotionally torn Netty/Carlina. They’re all confused, flawed, wounded and real.

Ultimately, this ripped-from-the-headlines story, so fresh the ink is barely dry on the court papers, feels somewhat incomplete. Perhaps to compensate, Lifetime is airing interviews with the real-life counterparts in “Beyond the Headlines: Carlina White,” after the film’s debut.

Abducted: The Carlina White Story

Movie; Lifetime, Sat. Oct. 6, 8 p.m.

Production: Filmed on location in Vancouver by Pilgrim Studios. Executive Producers, Craig Piligian, Mary Martin, Alan Gasmer; co-executive producer, Beth Miller; producers, Harvey Kahn, Richard Arredondo; director, Vondie Curtis-Hall; writer, Elizabeth Hunter; editor, Rick Martin;

Crew: Camera, Thomas M. Harting; music, Terence Blanchard; casting, Denise Chamian. Running time: 90 MIN.

Cast: Ann Pettway - Aunjanue Ellis
Netty/Carlina White - Keke Palmer
Joy White - Sherri Shepherd
Carl White - Roger Cross
Cassandra - Afton Williamson
Young Joy - Heather-Claire Nortey
Young Carl - Eli Goree

More TV

  • Netflix's Clarence Avant Doc 'Black Godfather'

    Barack Obama, P. Diddy, David Geffen Hail 'Black Godfather' Clarence Avant in Netflix Doc (Watch)

    The first trailer for “The Black Godfather,” Reginald Hudlin’s documentary about black entertainment trailblazer Clarence Avant, has been released. The film features interviews with Snoop Dogg, P. Diddy, David Geffen, Clive Davis, Diane Warren, Lionel Richie and Irving Azoff, among other industry titans. Former president Barack Obama also makes an appearance. Hudlin spent three years [...]

  • BBC Studios Names Anna Cronin Digital

    BBC Studios Names Anna Cronin Digital Content Director (EXCLUSIVE)

    Anna Cronin has been upped to director of digital content at BBC Studios, a new role at the production and distribution arm of the U.K. pubcaster. The position is within BBC Studios’ content partnerships division, which oversees the company’s programming and IP partnerships. Cronin will work with U.K. and international partners, and notably those in [...]

  • HBO Europe,The Mediapro Studio Lacoproductora Team

    HBO Europe, The Mediapro Studio, Lacoproductora Team On Comedy Series 'Whatever'

    MADRID — HBO Europe is adding to its growing Spanish slate with “Por H o por B,” a comedy series original produced by Globomedia, part of TV giant The Mediapro Studio and new Madrid-based company Lacoproductora. Written and directed by Manuela Burló Moreno, the 10-episode half-hour takes the characters from her Goya-nominated short film “Pipas,” [...]

  • Zombie Comedy ‘Zomboat!’ Sets Sail for

    Zombie Comedy ‘Zomboat!’ Sets Sail for ITV and Hulu

    The zombie apocalypse is coming to the U.K. and will be seen on British and U.S. TV after ITV and Hulu greenlit “Zomboat!” The upcoming comedy will star Leah Brotherhead (“White Gold”), Hamza Jeetooa (“Doctor Who”), Ryan McKen (“White Dragon”), and Cara Theobold (“Downton Abbey”). It will bow on the ITV2 channel this fall and [...]

  • Busy Philipps

    ACLU, Busy Philipps Take on Abortion Bans With #YouKnowMe Ad Campaign

    In the wake of revealing to “Busy Tonight” viewers that she had had an abortion — and creating the #YouKnowMe hashtag on social media — Busy Philipps is teaming up with the ACLU on a “You Know Me” ad campaign meant to rebut recent legislation in several states that restrict access to abortion. “You know [...]

  • LIVE IN FRONT OF A STUDIO

    TV Review: ABC's Live 'All in the Family' and 'The Jeffersons'

    In retrospect, it was only a matter of time before reboot and revival fever manifested as verbatim repeats — but if TV’s gonna go there, bringing back eerily timely shows like “All in the Family” and “The Jeffersons” is the way to do it. That Norman Lear’s comedies are timely, or at least prescient, is [...]

  • WGA Agents Packaging Fight Placeholder

    Judge in Writers Guild Suit Against Agencies Replaced Again

    Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Elaine W. Mandel has replaced Craig D. Karlan to handle the Writers Guild of America’s lawsuit against Hollywood’s four major talent agencies. Mandel was appointed Wednesday. She is the third judge assigned to the case, which was filed April 17 by the WGA against CAA, WME, UTA and ICM Partners [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content