Cain Isn't Able
With her five children and latest boyfriend, Callie Cain (Sarah Jessica Parker - Going for the Gold: The Bill Johnson Story) returns to her home town of Estherville, Iowa where her brother and his family live. But not long after returning Callie is struggling with the house in a mess, her eldest daughter looking after her baby brother, as Callie can't be bothered to get out of bed, and all the children suffering abuse at the hands of her boyfriend. With the children being bullied at school it is a miserable time for the Cain children, that is until social services step in and put them in to a foster home as it becomes clear Callie is suffering from depression and can't cope. But after Callie gets help and gets her life back on track she wants her children back, except her children don't want to return. Instead they want to be adopted by their foster parents.
Imagine a time when Sarah Jessica Parker wasn't best known for playing Carrie Bradshaw in "Sex and the City" or for starring in some mind numbing rom-com. I know it is hard but go back to 1992 and you will find movies featuring Sarah Jessica Parker in a variety of interesting roles such as in "In the Best Interest of the Children" where she plays a troubled mother. Inspired by a true story "In the Best Interest of the Children" is a TV movie heart wrencher which presents a difficult situation and a lot of emotion.
Now I will be the first to say that the first half of "In the Best Interest of the Children" sets about manipulating the audience as we enter the world of Callie Cain and her children, living on food stamps, abusive boyfriends, no money for presents and a daughter who takes on responsibility for her siblings as well as her mother. A scene where young Jessica Cain, played by Lexi Randall, marches her mother in to the bathroom because she knows she hasn't been taking her birth control pills is over the top but it makes you feel for Jessica. And that is what this first half is about, making you feel for the Cain children whilst understanding that Callie is a woman who one minute can be caring, the next the heart of the party but then sink deep in to the life sapping depths of depression almost instantly.
All of this manipulation is there so that when Jessica and her siblings are placed in a foster home where they get the love a child deserves we are happy for them and puts us on this side of the fence when the trouble starts with Callie wanting her children back. The thing is that we of course feel for Callie as no one wants to see a mother lose her children and we know she needs help but at the same time the logical side of our brains tell us that for the children to go back to their mother would put them all in danger again, including Callie if she couldn't cope.
As to what actually happens, well as I mentioned "In the Best Interest of the Children" is based on a true story and so the truth can be found if you wish, although it is pretty obvious how this is going to play out anyway.
What makes "In the Best Interest of the Children" much more impressive than your usual run of the mill true story TV movie comes down to two performances. Firstly Sarah Jessica Parker takes us on an obvious but impressive rollercoaster ride of a struggling young mum who can't cope and gets progressively worse. Watching Callie at her lowest, a mess hiding in the basement, afraid to go outside is impressive. But then so is the performance of young Lexi Randall who becomes protector to her siblings and mother. The aggressiveness she portrays when protecting them is equally impressive and it makes her an interesting character especially as she is the tough one who finds her loyalty to her mother tested by the better life she discovers with the foster family.
What this all boils down to is that "In the Best Interest of the Children" is a manipulative movie based on a true story but it is one which works thanks to the performances and the dramatic nature of the first half which leads us to take a side yet sympathise with the other, forcing our hearts and our heads to be in conflict.