18 years earlier Peggy Wilson (Ann Jillian - The Ann Jillian Story) along with her daughter Carrie (Monique Lanier) escaped from Peggy's abusive husband and Carrie's father having had enough of his violence. Now happily married to Walter Pomeroy (Richard Masur - My Girl 2) with two sons of their own life is good for Peggy. That is until Carrie, now a single mum, starts dating construction worker Gene Shepard (Richard Grieco - Death, Deceit & Destiny Aboard the Orient Express) and Peggy is concerned as she realises he has a violent side. Thinking her mum is over acting Carrie ignores her concerns only to discover his violent side first hand when she decides to try and break up with him. Gene's violence leads to him being arrested but when Carrie doesn't press charges he returns to take the entire family hostage in their own home.
I've watched quite a few movies on the subject of abuse and when I saw that "It Was Him or Us" had a story about domestic abuse I thought I knew what would happen in this movie. It turns out that "It Was Him or Us" is different to most TV movies which deal with the subject of abuse as instead of the woman being a frightened victim this one features a woman who shows the strength to battle against the abusive boyfriend of her daughter. It makes this TV movie less reality and more entertainment based.
Now in fairness it does highlight some aspects of abuse from Peggy being haunted by nightmare's of her abusive first husband to being concerned by her daughter's boyfriend's behaviour when she spots the signs that he is controlling and has a short fuse. If "It Was Him or Us" spent more time building on the realistic aspects of abuse it could have turned in to a thought provoking movie as it does some things very well especially when it comes to how Peggy has been affected by her own personal experience.
Unfortunately there is another side to "It Was Him or Us" and that is the side which tries to be entertaining which includes a scene where Gene follows Carrie into a public bathroom and they get it on in the cubicles. You can add to that Wil Wheaton who plays Scottie, Carrie's gay friend but plays him a force effeminate manner. These aspects are incredibly forced and jar with the abuse side of the movie. There are plenty more scenes which seem conflicted as we go from one second touching on the subject of abuse and the next delivering some drama for entertainment purposes.
This conflict between grit and entertainment makes the characters seem forced so whilst Ann Jillian does a good job of playing Peggy and making her easy to like the character is more entertaining than real. This is very much the case when it comes to Richard Grieco who seems to have been told to be as sleazy and greasy as possible which only comes across as being over the top. Unfortunately all the characters are saddled with some poor dialogue, not all the time but often enough to come across as cheesy.
What this all boils down to is that "It Was Him or Us" due to the nature of the story is more about the entertainment rather than the reality of abuse. But it does try to highlight issues of abuse and in doing so ends up conflicted because making an entertaining movie about abuse is not easy and this one doesn't get the mix right.