Shattered Trust: The Shari Karney Story (1993)

Melissa Gilbert in Shattered Trust: The Shari Karney Story (1993)

Abuse of the System

Lawyer Shari Karney (Melissa Gilbert - Forbidden Nights) is good at her job but she has always managed to stay away from cases of child abuse. That is until she is persuaded to help a girl and in doing so unlocks repressed memories of being abused as a child by her father whilst being mentally abused by her pushy mother. It leads Shari to seek therapy in order that she can confront her father and mother which doesn't go as she hoped. Not going as planned extends to the court cases as she constantly struggles with a system which appears to protect the abuser. Enraged by the legal system she teams up with lawyer Stephanie Chadford (Kate Nelligan) to try and change it, not just for young children going through abuse but also for grown ups which due to the system can't do anything about recollections of past abuse. Shari's determination to change the law comes at a cost as her relationship with her sister is lost after she confronts their parents over the abuse and her boyfriend leaves her.

"Shattered Trust: The Shari Karney Story" is the sort of movie which leaves me torn as any movie which deals with the subject of child/sexual abuse let alone one based on a true story has an important story to tell. Yet the way "Shattered Trust" plays out left a lot to be desired as whilst I applaud that it doesn't hold back from telling the hard to hear truths some of it is extremely over the top and forced. Plus there is Melissa Gilbert, an actress who constantly impresses me yet here her performance feels forced adding to that element of making "Shattered Trust" feel over the top.

Kenneth Welsh in Shattered Trust: The Shari Karney Story (1993)

Now there are many things going on in "Shattered Trust" which all link together as the experience of prosecuting a man accused of abusing his own daughter leads to Shari dealing with her own repressed memories. On the Shari side of the story we see how being intimate with her boyfriend leads to initially unexplained panic attacks which are explained through therapy which reveals those repressed memories of being abused. This in turn leads to conflict with her parents and the sister she had always been close to who doesn't believe what Shari is saying.

Then we have the legal side of things as Shari becomes dedicated to helping those who are being abused and have been abused but repressed their memories. We see how the system of that past was flawed which caused Shari to become increasingly angry at the injustice. And in a way that is where the movie fails because it forces it such as in a scene where after getting right in the face of a father she is questioning in court she leaps across the desk and attacks him. Maybe that happened to the real Shari Karney but the way it comes across in "Shattered Trust" is over the top and unbelievable.

That sense of being over the top extends sadly to Melissa Gilbert's performance as when she plays Shari full of rage it is too forced, too angry for someone who is a lawyer and a case to think of. These over the top outbursts also have the negative effect of making scenes where Shari is tenderly talking to an abused child feel far too sweet to be believable, their is too greater contrast.

What this all boils down to is that "Shattered Trust" has an important story to tell and I do praise it for not holding back from delivering the uncomfortable truth about abuse with graphic descriptions which leave you feeling disgusted. But it forces too many things especially Shari's passion and anger at the judicial system which didn't treat abused children fairly.