Family Secrets = Secret Family
When soap star Jane Tetley (Lesley Ann Warren) learns that she has cancer and not long to live she retires from acting to return to her hometown and her best friend Ida Mae (Meredith Baxter) the closest thing she has to family. In fact for Jane, Ida is family because many years earlier Jane had a child but Ida raised her as own and she now is a full grown woman, married with her own family and totally unaware that Jane is her real mother. With Jane's health deteriorating Jane and Ida face a choice whether they should tell Kate (Bridget White) the truth or allow a secret to remain a secret.
It is a fact that there are some movies which are barely mediocre but because an actor delivers a standout performance the movie simply seems better. This is the case of "Bound by a Secret" a made for TV melodrama which to be frank has a very obvious, emotional storyline. In fact whilst obvious, a couple of twists which appear towards the end may possibly catch you a little off guard add nothing to make the storyline any more impressive. But then you have Lesley Ann Warren as Jane who has returned home to deal with a few things before she dies and it is Warren's performance which lifts "Bound by a Secret" into something worth watching because it goes from glossy to raw, comical to emotional and in doing so Warren gives us a character who we connect with.
So from a storyline point of view "Bound by a Secret" isn't anything new or out of this world because at its heart it is the story of a dying woman returning home to be with her best friend and family whilst putting a few wrongs to right. That set up whilst unique with Jane being a big soap star is still the same story you can see in a lot of melodramas about someone dying. There is of course the fact that is Jane's best friend from childhood Ida has raised Jane's daughter for her, in fact the daughter Kate doesn't know that Jane is her real mother. So we get the obvious element that Jane would like for Kate to know the truth before she dies whilst Ida has her reasons for the secret to be kept.
Now alongside a couple of subplots, one romantic and one emotional as Kate and her family may move to Texas for work, "Bound by a Secret" plays out in quite an obvious manner. You can spot certain things a mile off be it Jane trying to set the single Ida up with the kindly Will or there being tension between Jane and Ida as they argue over whether to tell Kate the truth. Now normally I would say that the couple of twists which catch you by surprise towards the end are a good thing but this time they just don't work. Without spoiling anything one twist makes something expected not happen and in turn almost seems to make the movie pointless and then a switch up right at the end feels corny.
The thing about "Bound by a Secret" is that it is a very average storyline and most of the performances such as those from Meredith Baxter, Bridget White and Timothy Bottoms are nothing more than the average and pleasant characterisations you will see in a lot of these made for TV melodramas. But then there is Lesley Ann Warren and her portrayal of Jane whilst not amazing is certainly more than you expect from a TV movie. Mixing the emotion from being bubbly to being in pain, to be angry then emotional Warren makes Jane a very real person and the actual change in her look, mostly from clever use of make-up, makes it actually look like she is dying leading to what for me is one of the most simple yet tender scenes you will see in a TV movie.
What this all boils down to is that as a melodrama "Bound by a Secret" isn't really that special, nice but with a familiarity about it which makes it for the most predictable. But then there is the performance of Lesley Ann Warren which is better than you would expect from a TV movie and it is this performance, the slow deterioration of health which makes you watch "Bound by a Secret" rather than become distracted by other things.