When Katie Liner (Kellie Martin) met Jimmy Pettit (Ivan Sergei) a seemingly respectable and hard working young man who dotes on her she falls for him even though her cop father Jack (Kevin Dobson) is not convinced and less than impressed when they quickly get married. It is not long after their marriage that Katie discovers that Jimmy isn't the nice guy he makes himself out to be as he starts abusing her and when they have children he starts hitting them as well. Rather than tell Katie tries to keep the abuse to her self and when others begin to notice she makes them promise not to say as she loves Jimmy and hopes he will stop. But things become too much and Katie in defending herself kills Jimmy leading to court and Jack having to face up to why his daughter never came to him.
Here is the cold hard truth "If Someone Had Known" is no better or worse than any other made for TV movie which deals with the subject of domestic abuse. Sounds harsh but "If Someone Had Known" hits many of the same marks which other made for TV movies about domestic abuse hit and although this one is based on a true story it doesn't make it stand out from a crowd. That is of course my view point, someone who has watched a lot of TV movies and a lot of TV movies about domestic abuse and in fairness if this was the first movie about domestic abuse you watched you might be more impressed by all the points it covers.
Now in fairness "If Someone Had Known" does have a thorough storyline which take us from the na´ve Katie falling for the first guy who charms her, her naivety over the abuse as each time Jimmy hits her he then does something nice, the covering up of what is going on in the hope it will pass. All of this progresses to the shooting and Katie going to trial where we have a court case and the difficulty of proving that she was abused because everyone kept quiet instead of doing something about it, with a neighbour having the attitude of what goes on between a husband and wife is their business. Plus we see how Katie's father has to take a long hard look at how he is, how he acts towards women as well as the men he knows.
But the trouble is that as I mentioned every part of the story whilst based on a true story ends up familiar because they have all been parts of other movies about domestic abuse right through to an abused wife taking the law in to her own hands. As such there are times when "If Someone Had Known" feels more of a manufactured story rather than a true one and that starts with Kellie Martin. Now Martin does a great job of playing Katie, from going from naive to troubled but Kellie Martin is so likeable as an actress that even before the story unfolds we are on her side. It is the same thing with Ivan Sergei as he is handsome but the minute he opens his mouth we know that he is trouble.
What this all boils down to is that "If Someone Had Known" is an effective drama about domestic abuse hitting all the expected marks and is nicely acted especially from Kellie Martin. But it doesn't stray from a path which has been walked by other made for TV movies which deal with the subject of domestic abuse which only means this ends up effective in highlighting the issues whilst telling a true story.