Amber's Story (2006)
The subject of child abduction is an unpleasant one and when it comes to movies about child abduction they are usually very personal affairs, speaking to those involved in the case or those who followed it in the press. "Amber's Story" is a bit different because it is a movie of two halves with the first half focusing on the true story of Amber's abduction and then a second half focussing on the early warning system put in place following her abduction. Whether intentional or not it feels less of a personal movie as during the traumatic first half we are made aware of various statistics and how slow the operation is before news of the abduction spreads and then in the second we see not only Amber's mother Donna campaigning for state wide usage of the alert system but also it in action. Unfortunately after a good first half "Amber's Story" ends up messy as we go from various time periods and with some less than convincing acting it ends up just another movie rather than something as good as it should have been.
So as already mentioned "Amber's Story" is a movie of two halves with the first half focussing on the abduction of Amber and what her mother Donna went through. Now I don't know the story of Amber's abduction so can't say how true it is to what happened or how true the characters are either. But what I can say is that it feels less personal than many a movie about child abduction with the focus not so much on the traumatic personal ordeal of losing a child, although that still comes through, but more on the system in place to deal with it. As such we are spoon-fed various statistics from the likelihood of a child being found as the hours pass to how long it takes for the news to spread state wise of the abduction.
This first traumatic first half leads to an unfortunately muddled and lack lustre second half as not only do we have Donna campaigning for an "Amber Alerts" warning system to be introduced in the period after Amber's abduction but we also get the abduction of Nicole in 2002. The whole purpose of this second half is to see that Donna was successful in campaigning for this early alert system and then to see how it helps to save those who are abducted and yes we do see that. But from the shifting timeline and the shallowness of the story it never really gets going, in fact it feels like it has been slapped together on the fly and so is never truly convincing. Basically this second half lacks heart and drama and so never grabs you, never gets you involved with either Donna's campaign or the abduction of Nicole.
The messy second half is not the only issue but collectively the acting didn't seem right to me. Maybe Elisabeth Röhm's portrayal of Donna was accurate to the real woman, perhaps Myron Natwick's creepy performance as child abductor Glen Park was how he was but it doesn't feel convincing. In fairness I don't think any actor can deliver the soul destroying heartbreak of having a child abducted or the perversion of a child abductor but even so these performances and many more just don't feel right.
What this all boils down to is that "Amber's Story" as a movie doesn't quite work with problems of a messy second half and unconvincing performances being a big part of the problem. But the actual story of Amber and Donna's campaign for an early alert system is a good one, just not done justice in this movie.
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