The Promise (1999) Isabella Hofmann, Tracy Nelson, Neil Maffin, Courtney Peldon, Seth Adkins Movie Review

The Promise (1999)   3/53/53/53/53/5

Isabella Hofmann in The Promise (1999)

The Fugitive Father

Having failed at being self-employed Bill (Neil Maffin) allows that sense of failure and everything else to get to him, causing him to take his frustration and anger out on his wife, Lisa (Tracy Nelson - No Child of Mine). But after another heavy beating, which leaves Lisa hospitalized, her sister, Joanne (Isabella Hofmann - Unwed Father), encourages her to make a clean break of it with her children especially when after Bill is arrested he is released on bail. When Lisa finally decides to leave Bill he turns nasty and one night after breaking into her apartment shoots her. Fatally wounded Lisa manages to ask Joanne to look after her children after she is gone but with Bill on the loose it puts Joanne and her own family in danger.

Right at the start of the "The Promise" it tells us that it is inspired by actual events and those words are important because unlike with movies based on true stories these movies which are "inspired by" tend to be looser with the facts. Now before anyone jumps on me for saying a movie about wife battering is fanciful let me explain as part of the story features an abusive husband not being caught by the police after he murdered his wife and to be frank the husband is pretty recognizable so you do have to accept some things which seem not quite right. And that is not the only thing which is not quite right with "The Promise" as there are a few more but yet it is to be honest a reasonable movie, nothing really special or sadly original but watchable.

Neil Maffin in The Promise (1999)

Anyway as to the story well whilst the opening of "The Promise" establishes a classic battered wife storyline as we see how Bill has that Jekyll and Hyde personality so that when ever he attacks Lisa he is then sorry for his actions it isn't a deep examination of the troubled situation. Having said that it does try to show the cause of Bill's rage, a sense of failure eating away at hime for not becoming the self employed man he always dreamed, but it never accepts this as an excuse. As this plays out we see the bruised body of Lisa and Joanne's sisterly concern, helping her through the situation and standing up to Bill. But all of this is played much more for dramatic effect than realism and with out belittling it these scenes are what you will see in a lot of similar themed movies.

Then "The Promise" evolves with firstly the murder of Lisa and then Joanne, along with her family, ending up in danger from Bill when she takes in Lisa's children. I won't go into any detail over this other than the fact that this is where the writers appear to take the events which inspired the movie and fictionalized them. Maybe I am wrong but as I said Bill is pretty recognizable and you would expect after a killing he would be big news which doesn't happen here. It doesn't ruin "The Promise" but does move it away from feeling inspired by true events to a piece of fiction.

What "The Promise" has going for it is a group of actors who whilst not given the greatest of characters to work with make them work. Both Tracy Nelson and Isabella Hofmann as the sisters are easy to feel for whilst Neil Maffin certainly finds the darkness of his character and is pretty terrifying when we witness moments of rage.

What this all boils down to is that "The Promise" is a watchable made for TV movie which builds a drama out of the familiar set up of an abused wife leaving her husband. It has its problems but as a piece of dramatic entertainment rather than the retelling of a true story it works.