When He's Not a Stranger (1989)

Annabeth Gish in When He's Not a Stranger (1989)

No Acquaintance of Mine

If I has seen "When He's Not a Stranger" back in 1989 I would have been seriously impressed with this movie about rape at a University campus and how the victim is treated not just by the system but also by her friends. But since 1989 there have been other movies about rape and even others about rape in University which cover very similar ground and so the impact of this movie is not so great due to its sad familiarity. That doesn't make it a poor movie "When He's Not a Stranger" is as good as any and features some very good performances especially from Annabeth Gish.

Lyn (Annabeth Gish - Mystic Pizza) and Mel (Kim Myers - A Nightmare on Elm Street Part 2) had been friends since childhood and now are room mates at University where Mel is dating the hero of the football team Ron Cooper (John Terlesky). But one night Ron invites Lyn up to his room to wait for Mel and when he makes a move on her she says no, but he doesn't stop and proceeds to rape her. Having tried to put it behind her Lyn finds that she can't keep going so she reports what happened to the Dean and ends up having to take matters further and take him to court when the University system fails her.

John Terlesky in When He's Not a Stranger (1989)

So as I said the storyline to "When He's Not a Stranger" is a familiar one but still a good one. What we watch is basically Lyn having been raped being betrayed by the University system which believes the lies of Ron's fellow football players who make out that Lyn is easy and because Ron is the star player of a winning team protect him. Along the way it goes through the familiar elements of Lyn initially trying to put the rape behind her because she doesn't want the humiliation brought upon her of it becoming public. And it does a good job of doing all this with lots of atmosphere and drama but to sound like a broken record it is all familiar because there are other movies which have explored the same story.

The thing about "When He's Not a Stranger" is that in Annabeth Gish it has a supremely talented actress who sells every part of the drama. From the horror of the rape scene to the emotional trauma of trying to move on Gish delivers a powerful performance and none more so when it comes to the feeling that she is being turned in to the bad guy. But there are other good performances with Kevin Dillon shinning as her slightly geeks friend Rick to John Terlesky who as Ron might be the cliche handsome sports jock but has a real conniving side.

What this boils down to is that "When He's Not a Stranger" is another very good made for TV movie about rape on a University campus. But because there are other movies which deal with the same subject matter it is familiar and no better or worse than any of these other movies.