Mare's Missing Children Nightmare
Kate Bradshaw (Mare Winningham - Philomena) has had a tough life thanks to not being able to read and marrying a man who abused her, stole her money and then cleared off, but at least she has her three children who she adores. It is why she reluctantly ends up going to Welfare to seek help as she can't feed them and it is there that, social worker, Lander Hughes (Noble Willingham - The Children Nobody Wanted) notices that Kate can't read and sends her to Mary Gertrude Tyler (Polly Holliday - The Heartbreak Kid) who runs the Children's Rescue Mission. Believing that the sympathetic Miss Tyler will take her children in temporarily whilst she sorts things out they head to court to sign some documents which Kate believes are to permit Miss Tyler to obtain medical care for the children. But when a few days later Kate returns to the Mission to visit her children she discovers they have been placed with a family and there is nothing she can do about it, especially someone in her circumstances unless she is fortunate enough to find some one who will help her take on Miss Tyler in court.
I first watched Mare Winningham in "St. Elmo's Fire", one of my all time favourite movies, but somehow despite an enjoyable performance I felt that she didn't seem to fit with the actors around her. Some years later I discovered a series of made for TV movies which she had made at the start of the 80s and it all made sense because Mare Winningham's gift, along with being a good actress, is sweet likeability; she plays characters in a way which allows an audience to sympathise for them. And that is what we get from her in "Missing Children: A Mother's Story" as right from the start we sympathize with her as Kate because of that natural likeability, especially in the early scenes where we see her love for her children.
Anyway beyond another very good performance from Mare Winningham "Missing Children: A Mother's Story" could quite easily be inspired by a true story although I don't remember seeing mention of it. It has that feel of an old injustice being dramatized, the sort which many years later gets brought to the fore when someone digs through old adoption records and discovers some heinous acts of those who were in authority and abused their positions. But at the same time it is a story which has that element of moral justice thrown in to the mix as we see Kate find some compassionate lawyers who help her fight her corner. It is entertaining enough with an okay blend of humour and drama to stop it from being all one level.
But "Missing Children: A Mother's Story" is not without problems and in order to make the story work in the space of 90 minutes some characters are poorly written. Take Kate's husband; he is written as such a stereotype that all we get is a womanizer, who robs and beats his wife. Elsewhere we have the great Scatman Crothers typecast in a handyman type role. In fact whilst there are these issues the calibre of the cast which includes Anne Haney, Jane Wyatt and Polly Holliday help make "Missing Children: A Mother's Story" work.
What this all boils down to is that "Missing Children: A Mother's Story" is one of those movies which is entertaining for those who enjoy tales of good people fighting injustice. And with Mare Winningham in the lead role it is an effective drama despite some issues.