Accidental Friendship (2008)
A Hallmark in Homeless Movies
Once in a while a movie comes around which really impresses, which grabs your attention and keeps you watching. It's even move of a surprise when it is a made for TV movie which impresses. But that is the case of "Accidental Friendship" a TV movie which features a performance from Chandra Wilson which is better than many you will come across on the big screen. It is not just Wilson's performances which makes "Accidental Friendship" worth watching as whilst there are certain cliches it is also a movie which has a well developed storyline with depth and motive.
Homeless Yvonne (Chandra Wilson) finds herself coming to the attention of Officer Tami Baumann (Kathleen Munroe - The Wild Girl) who sees her looking after some dogs and takes an interest. Despite being proud and not wanting charity Yvonne finds herself allowing Tami to slowly enter her life, calling on her in times of emergency which leads to a very unlikely and life changing friendship forming.
So the one thing that "Accidental Friendship" is not is original because there have been plenty of movies which have featured a homeless person being befriended by someone else and whilst we have Tami a cop who befriends Yvonne the homeless dog lady it is not a big change to the usual. As such there is the cliche aspect to the movie because you know that over time Tami and Yvonne will become friends once Yvonne accepts help from her hollowing her initial resistance. And to be honest it is not much of a spoiler if I tell you through trusting Tami Yvonne agrees to get help to try and get herself off of the street.
But then in away "Accidental Friendship" is not so much a movie about the outcome but what happens along the way to what for me was inevitable. Now on one hand you have the simplest story which is that of Tami who fears getting into deep relationships, we even learn that she dumped her previous boyfriend because he was talking of marriage. So when she starts seeing Kevin, another Officer, there is this barrier she puts up to protect herself and the reason why is what makes this a well worked subplot and not just some token romance.
But the heart of "Accidental Friendship" is Yvonne as we follow her journey starting with her life on the streets where she collects cans to take to the recycling depot and cares for her dogs, in fact cares for them so much buys them proper food only then to rummage through bins for food for herself. It is both a simplistic yet also realistic look at what being homeless is like, from the dangers of sleeping rough to the fear of help in case it turns bad. And more importantly you get to understand how quickly someone can become destitute if things turns bad.
There is more though and we watch how Yvonne slowly come to trust Tami through their joint love of dogs and we watch how after some time Yvonne agrees to get help. But this is not some simplistic happy every after ending quick fix, the simplistic realism continues as events almost seem to conspire against Yvonne. There are friends who go, death, sickness as well as feelings of self doubt which makes "Accidental Friendship" a thorough but not too heavy drama.
The thing about "Accidental Friendship" is that there are a lot of above average performances for a TV movie. Kathleen Munroe as Tami, Gabriel Hogan as Kevin and Ben Vereen as Wes all shine giving their characters depth but they are all outshone by Chandra Wilson as Yvonne, who delivers a performance which outshines some big screen performances. There is such conviction to Wilson's performance be it her authentic characterisation of a homeless person who protects herself from friendship, too proud to accept charity. But we also understand her, warm to her and feel for her during her darkest moments and trust me there are a few.
What this all boils down to is that "Accidental Friendship" is one of those rare made for TV movies which takes something quite unoriginal but makes it brilliant thanks to good writing and brilliant performances. It is basically a brilliant movie with a brilliant performance from Chandra Wilson and those who think TV movies suck should give this a watch.
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