On Whose Say So?
After being raped and having a baby out of wedlock Carrie Buck (Marlee Matlin) finds herself being forcibly taken to a state colony for the feeble-minded in Virginia where having been declared mentally incompetent she is the subject of compulsory sterilization surgery. Carrie's case comes to the attention of law clerk Melissa Prentice (Melissa Gilbert) who persuades her boss Adam White (Peter Frechette) to take up Carrie's case as she not only disagrees with Carrie's diagnosis but disagrees with the idea of feeble-mindedness being passed down through lineage. But it leads to Melissa and Adam up against Arthur Kent (Pat Hingle), Melissa's physician uncle who is in favour of compulsory sterilization.
"Against Her Will: The Carrie Buck Story" ends up being a frustrating movie as on one hand you have the hard hitting aspects of when it comes to attitudes of the time and then on the other hand you have the cliche you find in TV movies of this era which sadly sucks the life out of the movie. Don't get me wrong as "Against Her Will: The Carrie Buck Story" is still eye opening and in truth upsetting but it needed to give you more than it does.
So let me tell you what will upset you and that is not only hearing the idea that those who are feeble minded should be sterilized so that in a generation the feeble-minded will be wiped out from society completely. It is extremely painful when you hear this sentiment and you have to give credit to actors such as Pat Hingle for managing to sound convincing when it comes to their campaign for compulsory sterilization. There is also the sexism of the time with Melissa having to deal with the patronizing tone of her uncle who thinks she should be a mother and a wife rather than concerning herself with the law. Also on this side is another fantastic performance from Marlee Matlin as Carrie Buck as she does a fantastic job of delivering the raw emotion and pain of the abuse she suffers from the system.
But as I said "Against Her Will: The Carrie Buck Story" is also frustrating because of the cliche side and unfortunately that comes from Melissa Gilbert and Peter Frechette who not only deliver cliche as the moral crusaders but romantic melodrama which whilst some may accept as part of any TV movie wasn't needed in this movie. In fairness to Gilbert and Frechette it is hard to compete with someone like Matlin who is a stunning actress with a wide range but they are also saddled with far too much cliche to even stand a chance.
What this all boils down to is that "Against Her Will: The Carrie Buck Story" is hard hitting due to the subject matter and it certainly doesn't shy away from an ugly episode in America's past. But at the same time the cliche aspects which are also squeezed in to the story suck the power of the story out of the movie.