She was Only Sixteen
"Mom at Sixteen" is not the first movie I have watched which tackles the emotive subject of teenage pregnancy/ motherhood and I am sure it won't be the last, but it is a surprisingly good one which possibly explains that why almost every month it gets shown on TV. Don't get me wrong as "Mom at Sixteen" is by no means perfect and like so many TV movies overplays the emotional side of the drama. But its heart is in the right place as it shows the difficulties of teenage pregnancy and motherhood, not just from the viewpoint of the young girl who finds herself forced to grow up very quickly but also from all those involved and at the same time showing what options are open to teenage mothers.
When 16 year old Jacey (Danielle Panabaker - Sky High) tells her mum that she is pregnant life immediately changes for the entire family including Jacey's sister Macy (Clare Stone). Having agreed that when she has the baby they allow it to be adopted Jacey changes her mind as she can't bear to not be part of her child's life and so her mum Terry (Mercedes Ruehl) decides that they will keep the truth a secret and she will raise the baby as her own. All is sort of well as they move to a new district and Jacey and Macy start a new school but that is until guidance counsellor Donna Cooper (Jane Krakowski - A Christmas Carol) discovers that Jacey is a teenage mum and soon everyone knows the truth.
As storylines go "Mom at Sixteen" takes a little time to get going as it puts into place all the pieces in particular the Jeffries family who have just moved to a new neighbourhood and the teenage sisters Jacey and Macy starting a new school, whilst their mother tries to support them and baby Charley alone. It's almost as if it is trying to create some sort of mystery as we discover that they all abruptly left their former school but to be honest it is not subtle in delivering the clues and you can guess that whilst Mrs. Jeffries acts like Charley's mother the real mother is Jacey. But in doing so it does show one angle of teenage motherhood where to try and protect her daughter Mrs. Jeffries becomes the baby's mother in the hope that Jacey can lead a normal life and in doing so puts pressure on the family unit.
Once it does finally make it clear that Jacey is Charley's real mum "Mom at Sixteen" kicks into gear as it show the various issues which come with teenage motherhood. There is not only the aspect of Jacey become the focus of gossip and taunts at school when they learn that she has a child but you also get the aspect of her witnessing those in school making the same sort of mistakes she made as they don't respect that sex can lead to pregnancy. And then on top of this you also have how it affects the Jeffries home as Mrs. Jeffries is stressed out from trying to bring up a young baby while Jacey's sister Macy blames her for the stress, the arguments and the fact that they had to leave their previous life behind in a hurry to keep her pregnancy a secret. It's all very well done as it shows a whole variety of issues that teenage pregnancy and motherhood bring with them from physical issues to emotional ones but nicely allows us to realise these issues under are own steam without forcing them on us in a manufactured manner.
But "Mom at Sixteen" does have issues and one of those issues is that it does go for the jugular when trying to deliver emotion. There is in fact a natural emotion to the story of Jacey which often manifests itself and brings a very natural response especially when it comes to the arguments and Jacey taking responsibility for Charley. It also has some powerful scenes where things come to a head as Jacey not only deals with teenage motherhood but also her mother who seems to be quite domineering. But director Peter Werner often goes too far in trying to get an emotional response and a scene which is naturally powerful and emotional is manipulated too much and not for the better.
What also causes issues is the subplot which sees student guidance counsellor Donna and her husband Bob struggling to conceive naturally or through IVF treatment. There is the actual school element where Donna discusses sex and pregnancy with a class of teenagers which whilst feeling like spontaneous discussions also seems to be thrown into the story to try and force the message home about teenage pregnancy and motherhood, often feeling out of place. And to add to the problems you have that issue of them not being able to have children themselves and deciding to put their name down for adoption. If you can't see where all this is going then you are very lucky because the outcome is not a shock, but the actual cheesiness of it all and the extra unnecessary ending spoils things.
Despite these issues "Mom at Sixteen" is a good movie and one which is well acted. From Mercedes Ruehl who plays Mrs. Jeffries though to Clare Stone who plays Macy they all do a good job of delivering characters with different layers even when some of the dialogue they get is less than stunning. But unsurprisingly it is Danielle Panabaker who as Jacey is the star of the movie and delivers the standout performance making Jacey a young girl with an old head on her shoulders. It makes her interesting especially when we watch her in school as she sees her fellow students taking risks and having sex, yet there is also a vulnerability to her when it comes to her being a mother and dealing with her own domineering mother.
What this all boils down to is that for a TV movie about teenage motherhood "Mom at Sixteen" did impress me. It does have various issues from subplots through to trying to hard to manipulate the audience's emotions. But it is surprisingly compelling, well acted with a good message when it comes to both teenage pregnancy and motherhood.