Pleasure and Pain from the Past
Following a strange out of body experience, whilst relaxing on the river with her husband the Rev. David Beckett (Bill Smitrovich), Jo (Kirstie Alley - Salem Witch Trials), a veterinarian, is surprised to run in to old friend, Eli Mayhew (Peter Horton - Children of the Dark), when he brings his sick dog into her surgery. The chance encounter brings memories flooding back of the 70s when Jo and Eli shared a house with other college students. But it also causes some bad memories and a secret to be revealed, which has been hidden for over 30 years.
A trip along a river leads to a trip down memory lane and not a pleasant one at that. In a way that sort of sums up "While I Was Gone" a TV movie which stars Kirstie Alley and Peter Horton and on some levels is quite good. It is well acted and delivers quite a surprising amount of suspense as whilst this trip down memory lane stokes up old feelings and brings current ones in to focus, it also reveals something unpleasant from the past, a secret which has been kept hidden. But sadly "While I Was Gone" is also a little messy as it leads you to think it will be one thing then delivering something else before delivering the biggest disappointment which is a very weak ending.
It is a shame that "While I Was Gone" is messy it does feature some surprisingly good performances. In many ways the character of Jo is a cliche, she's not 100% happy in her marriage and over the years has piled on the weight, add the strained relationship with the daughter and you have a walking cliche. But Kirstie Alley doesn't play her as a cliche but as a very ordinary woman who finds temptation coming her way. Peter Horton is just as good as Eli because he seems withdrawn, as if he is hiding something, something which has weighed heavy on him for many years. Add an equally good performance from Bill Smitrovich who plays the Rev Beckett as well as those who play the younger version of Jo and Eli and in many ways the performances end up more impressive than the movie.
What this all boils down to is that whilst "While I Was Gone" is messy and has numerous issues which spoil it the basis of the movie is good. And it is made all the better because there are some genuinely good performances which make cliche characters far more interesting by playing them with restraint.