As a 10 year old Alex Chivescu (Collin MacKechnie) was so proud of his mum Ileana (Kim Delaney), having immigrated from Romania and after being left a single mum she not only raised him on her own but also studied and got a PhD. It inspired Alex to do the same, setting his aims high as he promises his mum that one day he will go to Harvard. But life takes a turn for a worse when a car accident leaves Ileana with a head injury making day to day living difficult with her medication having side effects including making it hard for her to work like she did. For Alex it leads to major changes as he ends up in and out of care homes when ever Ileana stops taking her medication and ends up back in hospital, That us until at the age of 16 Alex (Jared Abrahamson) has enough of the disruption and decides to take control of his life by seeking emancipation and a new family who can provide him with the stability he needs to achieve his goals.
I will be the first to admit that many made for TV movies are poor and often are too sentimentally cloying but occasionally you watch one which ends up feeling special, which manages to touch you in a way you didn't anticipate. That brings me to "Finding a Family" a true story movie shown on the Hallmark Channel which is one of those special movies which touches you in a way you didn't expect. In truth "Finding a Family" has all those elements you expect from a movie shown on the Hallmark Channel, it is wholesome with no offensive language or real violence and is full of nice people who are often kind in a way which feels not real. But the story of young Alex and his difficult upbringing is compelling, touching and strangely inspirational making it different to the norm.
Now that synopsis for "Finding a Family" basically covers just the first half because this is a movie of two stories revolving around Alex aiming for Harvard and how his difficult teenage years affected him with both sides of the movie ending up compelling. This first half as we watch Alex's difficult childhood ending up in care every time his mother stops her medication is both painful and touching as we really get to feel for him and also his mother. It is incredibly well balanced because it would be easy for Ileana to be portrayed as a villain as poor Alex suffers from her bouts of depression but we sympathise with her as much as Alex because it is not her fault, her clouded and muddled mind causing her to make the wrong choice every time to stop taking her medication. And all this eventually leads to Alex having enough and deciding his only chance to make something of himself is to seek legal emancipation, a scene in itself which is touching.
Yet this emotional and troubled start is only half the story as the second half of "Finding a Family" focuses on Alex's story and battles following emancipation at 16 and finding himself in a children's home. Without going into detail what we watch is Alex's battle to keep his promise that one day he will go to Harvard and how having to be resilient forces himself to shield himself from relying on others. We see how it changes him and how when a family who want to help him try and get close he can't handle it because he had never had that sort of relationship with others.
Now the thing is that in many ways "Finding a Family" is a typical Hallmark movie with it feeling slightly unreal despite being based on a true story as there is no swearing or real violence and everyone seeming to be nice. But there is something about the way it comes across, the use of a narration as we hear a 16 year old Alex recount his early years and the story which makes it compelling and touching for the right reasons. Okay, if you are not a fan of TV movies it would be easy to criticize it but for those who do enjoy them this is one that is a bit more special than the norm.
What this all boils down to is that "Finding a Family" whilst typical of many Hallmark Channel movies does have that something extra to make it stand out from the crowd. It touches you in a way you don't expect and quickly gets you interested by the touching story of Alex and his troubled teenage years.