Mistaken Identity (1999) (aka: Switched at Birth) Melissa Gilbert, Rosanna Arquette, David Andrews, James McCaffrey, Mary Mara, Susan Barnes Movie Review

Mistaken Identity (1999)   3/53/53/53/53/5

Rosanna Arquette in Mistaken Identity (1999) (aka: Switched at Birth)

To Switch or not to Switch, that is the Question

When Sarah Barlow (Melissa Gilbert - Her Own Rules) goes into labour during a day out in the country her husband rushes her to the nearest hospital where Linda Wells (Rosanna Arquette - Buffalo '66), a local, is in labour at the same time. They both give birth within 10 minutes of each other but a busy nurse accidentally switches the hospital tags and when their stay is over Linda leaves with Sarah's baby whilst Sarah and her husband return to the city and their well off life with Linda's baby. 18 months later, Linda's former boyfriend Daryl (James McCaffrey) shows back up and refuses to admit he is that father of her baby, Luke, so she pays for a DNA test which to her surprise returns saying neither of them are Luke's parents leading to a whole big switched at birth mess for all involved?

"Mistaken Identity", which also goes by the name of "Switched at Birth", is not the first movie to deliver a drama about babies being accidentally switched at birth but it does offer an interesting twist on the usual drama. The twist surprisingly is not the whole DNA test thing surrounding Linda's no good former boyfriend but in the chalk n cheese set up of Linda being a single small town girl whilst Sarah and James are well off city folk being a major factor in what they all decide is the best. That sounds like it should be a comedy and there are some elements of humour to "Mistaken Identity" but also an interesting dilemma based drama as to what is the right thing to do.

Melissa Gilbert in Mistaken Identity (1999) (aka: Switched at Birth)

Now any movie which tackles the unthinkable horror of babies being switched at birth is going to get your attention no matter what because it is a nightmare situation. But what "Mistaken Identity" does is take that situation a lot further with an unravelling drama full of consequences. To explain I need to say spoiler alert so if you don't want to know I suggest go ahead and watch "Mistaken Identity" as it is a good movie.

So we have this entertainingly clever trigger to all this drama as we have the paternity test and it is an imaginative way to get to the main drama. But that real drama starts when Sarah and Linda decide it would be best not to switch children back as after 18 months they had become bonded with the child they have. We then see how what initially starts as good intentions to stay involved in each others lives becomes problematic as Sarah wants Linda to do things a certain way. But it gets all the more complicated when Linda starts seeing Daryl again and he then wants his rights to see his biological son. It makes for an entertaining drama which draws you in and keeps you involved because of the various twists.

This makes "Mistaken Identity" an interesting drama and despite going for some obvious, popular casting with Melissa Gilbert and Rosanna Arquette as the mothers it stays clear of being too sweet or too melodramatic. It is credit to director Douglas Barr as he has taken a storyline which due to its various twists could have spiralled right out of control but manages to keep it grounded. Yes it still has some problems you would associate with TV movies, some of the characters are not as well rounded as others but it doesn't detract from what ends up a fascinating story which I should mention was inspired by a true story even though it sounds convoluted.

What this all boils down to is that "Mistaken Identity" is an entertaining, twisting drama surrounding the complications of babies switched at birth and what happens next.