Family of Strangers (1993) Melissa Gilbert, Patty Duke, Martha Gibson, Chuck Shamata, Eric McCormack, William Shatner Movie Review

Family of Strangers (1993)   3/53/53/53/53/5

Melissa Gilbert in Family of Strangers (1993)

Secrets of the Past

After her husband, Sam (Eric McCormack - Return to the Lost World), cheated on her Julie (Melissa Gilbert - Joshua's Heart) and her daughter went to live with her widowed father, Earl (William Shatner - Crash of Flight 401). But it is on returning home from a tough day at work and another confrontation with Sam that Julie has some sort of seizure at the wheel of her car only to end up in hospital where have she is told that she requires brain surgery sooner rather than later. But it is when Julie asks Earl about the family's medical history that she is stunned to learn that she was adopted, privately arranged by a now deceased lawyer. Now Julie is on the search for who her real mum and dad is, a search which takes her to Canada and another revelation which shocks her.

Spoiler Alert - just to let you know that later on in this review of "Family of Strangers" I will reveal a major plot point but feel a need to as it is this plot point which becomes the focus of the movie. But before that "Family of Strangers" starts like a pretty typical TV melodrama with some over the top delivery of the lines during the early scenes to try and create some sort of atmosphere or tension. It doesn't work and initially this feels like a pretty standard over the top 90s melodrama with a troubled marriage, a woman with a child, the cardigan wearing grandpa and of course the obligatory drama which sees Julie ending up in hospital.

Patty Duke in Family of Strangers (1993)

But then in what seems a pretty standard plot twist "Family of Strangers" gives us a mystery as Julie learns she was adopted and so sets out to discover who her real parents are which sees her head to Canada and meet a woman called Beth, played by Patty Duke, who is her mother. But here is the real plot twist as whilst Beth initially is reluctant to admit she is Julie's real mother we discover that she was raped back in high school and she doesn't know who did it although she suspects it was one of three guys. This certainly gives the movie a lot more mystery than you initially suspect and opens up some possibilities when it comes to danger.

The thing is that for all the good story ideas in "Family of Strangers" the style of the movie is distinctly 90s melodrama and as such whilst I like Melissa Gilbert and Patty Duke as well as many of the supporting cast such as William Shatner and Eric McCormack everyone in this tend to over deliver their lines as well as their reactions.

What this all boils down to is that "Family of Strangers" feels like one of those 90s made for TV movies which could be remade now and be improved upon by turning the dial down on the melodrama and acting because the storyline itself has plenty of potential.