The Promise (1999)   3/53/53/53/53/5

Isabella Hofmann in The Promise (1999)

The Fugitive Father

Right at the start of the "The Promise" it tells us that it is inspired by actual events and those words are important because unlike with movies based on true stories these movies which are "inspired by" tend to be more fanciful. Now before anyone jumps on me saying a movie about wife battering is fanciful let me explain as part of the story features an abusive husband not be caught by the police after the murder of his wife and to be frank the husband is pretty recognizable so you do have to accept some things which seem not quite right. And that is not the only thing which is not quite right with the movie as there are a few more but yet "The Promise" is to be honest a reasonable movie, nothing really special or sadly original but watchable.

With Bill (Neil Maffin) unable to fill his dreams of becoming self-employed it gets to him, everything gets to him and he takes it out on his wife Lisa (Tracy Nelson - A Grandpa for Christmas). When she is hospitalized after a severe beating her sister Joanne (Isabella Hofmann) encourages her to make a clean break of it with their children especially when after Bill is arrested he is let out on bail. When she finally does have enough and leaves Bill turns nasty and one night after breaking into her apartment shoots her. Fatally wounded Lisa manages to ask Joanne to look after her children after she is gone but with Bill on the loose it puts herself and her own family in jeopardy.

Neil Maffin in The Promise (1999)

Anyway as to the story well whilst the opening establishes a classic battered wife storyline as we see how Bill has a split personality so than when ever he attacks Lisa he is then sorry for his actions it isn't a deep examination of the situation. Having said that it does try and show why Bill flips out, his sense of failure for not becoming the self employed man he always dreamed off but it never accepts this as an excuse. As this plays out we see the bruised body of Lisa and Joanne's sisterly concern, helping her through the situation and standing up to Bill but all of this is played much more for dramatic effect than realism.

Then of course after this the storyline evolves with the murder of Lisa and Joanne and her family ending up in danger from Bill when she takes in her children. I won't go into any detail over this other than the fact that this is where the writers appear to take the events which inspired the movie and fictionalized them. Maybe I am wrong but as I said Bill is pretty recognizable and you would expect after a killing he would be big news which doesn't happen here. It doesn't ruin "The Promise" but does move it away from feeling inspired by true events to a piece of fiction.

What "The Promise" has going for it is a group of actors who whilst not given the greatest of characters to work with make them work. Both Tracy Nelson and Isabella Hofmann as the sisters are easy to feel for whilst Neil Maffin certainly finds the darkness of his character and is pretty terrifying when we see him dishing out an attack.

What this all boils down to is that "The Promise" is a watchable made for TV movie which builds a drama out of the familiar set up of an abused wife leaving her husband. It has its problems but as a piece of entertainment rather than the retelling of a true story it works.