Society's Child (2002)
Mother Knows Best!
Evidently "Society's Child" is based on the true story of Katie Lynn Baker, it is not a name I am familiar with as to my memory the story was not news here in the UK. It seems that those who know the true story dislike this movie greatly because of the way it is told and to be honest I can understand why. Without giving too much away the style of the movie is very sympathetic towards the characters and it uses systems such as a narration to build on that sympathy. But at the same time it makes it a typical TV movie and in doing so makes it watchable for those accustomed to this sort of true story movie whilst telling one side of the story.
Terry Best (Jessica Steen - Slap Shot 2: Breaking the Ice) had her first child at just 14 and over the coming years she had several more including her 6th Nikki (Kyley Statham) who was born a healthy little girl. But a while after her birth something happened and Nikki started to cry and cry until she was diagnosed with Rett Syndrome. It lead to her volatile father Sean (Hugh Thompson) returning home which whilst at times was a help also lead to more difficulties especially for Terry's older children who struggle with his violent nature. Despite concerns from the social workers Terry does her best to care for her children especially Nikki with the help of Monique (Melanie Nicholls-King) a professional carer.
So as I said I do not know the true story on which "Society's Child" is based and I cannot comment on how accurate to the truth it is, be it in the elements of the story or how characters are portrayed. As such what I watched was a drama of two halves with a first half which takes us into some familiar territory of the difficulties of having a disabled child. I say familiar as we see how stressful it is as Terry is devoted to giving Nikki the best life she can whilst we also have an element of volatile husband as Sean has aggression issues which leads to further troubles especially with Terry's older sons. It does work as it allows us to feel compassion for the central characters which I am sure is the intention because nothing is made of why Terry got pregnant at 14 and continued to have children via, presumably, different men. And whilst we also see how their social worker had concerns she is portrayed as partly on the side of Terry.
Then there is the second half and this is where I need to mention some things which happen so if you don't know the story I suggest watching the movie. This second half switches to Nikki's weight loss and Terry's choices in how she dealt with this and the outcome of it all. Now because the first half has been constructed in such a way to cause sympathy for both Nikki and Terry that it does come across as one sided and again I am sure that was the intention, to tell the story from Nikki and Terry's perspective. Now it has to be said we get this via a constant narration as if we are hearing Nikki's thoughts and what she saw which you have to say how could anyone know this but it is effective in making this a sympathetic drama. Is that right? I am not to say but it is because of this that those aware of the true story and the outcome of it might be angered by its retelling here.
Whilst the choice in making "Society's Chid" a sympathetic drama might annoy some it is well acted for what sort of movie it is. Jessica Steen does a good job of playing Terry as she gets across how desperate she is to keep Nikki with her and Steen's looks, her eyes make her very appealing and easy to warm to. And then there is Kyley Statham as Nikki and whilst to my knowledge I have never encountered anyone with Rett Syndrome Statham's performance is captivating and effective.
What this all boils down to is that "Society's Child" is probably not an accurate retelling of the true story but it is an effective drama made in a style which will work for a certain type audience who enjoy touching made for TV dramas.
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