Family of Strangers (1993)   3/53/53/53/53/5


Melissa Gilbert in Family of Strangers (1993)

Secrets of the Past

After her husband Sam (Eric McCormack) cheated on her Julie (Melissa Gilbert) and her daughter moved in with her widowed father Earl (William Shatner). But it is on returning home from a tough day at work and another confrontation with Sam that Julie has some sort of seizure at the wheel only to end up in hospital where have come around learns that she needs brain surgery soon rather than later. But it is when Julie asks Early about the family's medical history she discovers to her horror that she was adopted, privately arranged by a now deceased lawyer. Now Julie is on the search for who her real mum and dad is, a search which takes her to Canada and a revelation which shocks her.

Spoiler Alert - just to let you know that later on this review of "Family of Strangers" I will reveal a major plot point but feel a need to as it is this plot point which becomes all the movie is about. But before that "Family of Strangers" starts like a pretty typical TV melodrama with some over the top delivery of the lines in the early scenes to try and liven it up. It doesn't work and initially this feels like a pretty standard over the top 90s melodrama with a troubled marriage, a woman with a child, the cardigan wearing grandpa and of course the obligatory drama which sees Julie ending up in hospital.

Patty Duke in Family of Strangers (1993)

But then in what seems a pretty standard plot twist "Family of Strangers" gives us the mystery as Julie tries to find out who her real parents are which sees her head to Canada and meet a woman called Beth, played by Patty Duke, who is her mother. But here is the real plot twist as whilst Beth initially is reluctant to admit she is Julie's real mother we discover that she was raped back in high school and she doesn't know who did it although she suspects it was one of three guys. This certainly gives the movie a lot more mystery than you initially suspect and opens up some possibilities when it comes to danger.

The thing is that for all the good story ideas in "Family of Strangers" the style of the movie is distinctly melodrama and as such whilst I like Melissa Gilbert and Patty Duke as well as many of the supporting cast such as William Shatner and Eric McCormack everyone in this tend to over deliver their lines and their reactions.

What this all boils down to is that "Family of Strangers" feels like one of those 90s made for TV movies which could be remade now and be improved upon by turning the dial down on the melodrama and acting because the storyline itself has plenty of potential.


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