After leaving school to walk home 7 year old Steven (Luke Edwards, Corin Nemec) is persuaded to get in to the car of Kenneth Parnell (Arliss Howard) by his colleague who took them back to Parnell's where Parnell had lots of children toys. Over the coming weeks and months Parnell fed young Steven one lie after another about his family until he went along with what Parnell was telling him whilst also abusing him. The years passed and as Steven became a teenager Parnell with the aid of another teenager abducted another young boy to abuse and raise as his own. Knowing to well what lay ahead for the young boy Steven found a way for them to escape and they ended up going to the police. Whilst Parnell was arrested Steven ended up returning to his parents but with time having passed and Steven doing a lot of growing up returning home is difficult for them all.
The Steven in the movie "I Know My First Name Is Steven" is Steven Stayner who on the 5th December 1972 was abducted and for just over 7 years was abused and raised by Kenneth Parnell which means that for those who didn't know, this is a movie based on a true story. In fact the real Steven Stayner who died in late 1989 in a road accident worked as a consultant on "I Know My First Name Is Steven". Those are just some of the facts and if you want to know more a quick search on the internet for Steven Stayner will lead you to more facts about this case and his life.
But what about "I Know My First Name Is Steven"? Well to be blunt when watched now some 25 years after it was produced it covers many of the same aspects which other child abduction movies cover including abuse. We see how for Steven's parents it was tough to carry on and as the years passed try to slowly let go of things for the sake of their family. We also see how hard it was for Steven when having gone in to the police station to actually look Parnell in the face and identify him after years of threats. We also see how having been gone for 7 years makes it difficult when Steven eventually gets to go home having picked up habits such as smoking which his parents dislike. Don't get me wrong as it does a good job of covering these aspects and many more such as the distance between Steven and his father on his return but these have all been covered by other movies about child abduction over the intervening years and in some cases done better.
What also seems to be the case is that in turning the story of Steven in to a three hour mini-series/ TV Movie some aspects have had to be drawn out which means at times "I Know My First Name Is Steven" is slow going and includes scenes which reiterate things which is not always needed. But at the same time it is also able to explore certain aspects more sensitively such as the awkwardness of returning home and Steven's parents asking him if that man treated him well with Steven not wanting to speak about what happened for reasons which we have to work out for ourselves.
What this all boils down to is that "I Know My First Name Is Steven" is an interesting movie and I imagine back in 1989 when it was shown it had quite a powerful affect on audiences. But as mentioned since then there have been various other child abduction movies which have covered many similar aspects and in truth done them better.