The plot of "Natalee Holloway" is based on the true story of a teenage girl who went missing in Aruba whilst holidaying with her friends and from my understanding her story and that of her mother Beth's determination to get answers grabbed the public's attention in the States. It means that as a Brit in the UK I had never heard of this story and having watched a few of these true story movies based on a missing child which grabbed the public's attention I expected to find this a very personal movie, almost a movie made for those involved in the story rather than for the general public. But surprisingly "Natalee Holloway" works as an effective drama whilst also getting across he mother's heart ache and more importantly finding a way to bring a positive from this story in the form of a message. It isn't a great movie, you could say it is very one sided and at times overly melodramatic but unlike other true story movies about a missing child "Natalee Holloway" works as a drama as well as a personal movie.
Following her graduation Natalee Holloway (Amy Gumenick) and her friends head off on a holiday to Aruba but on the evening before they are due to fly back she meets Joran van der Sloot (Jacques Strydom) and ends up getting into a car with him and his friends. When next day Natalee is nowhere to be found her mother Beth (TTracy Pollan - Fine Things) and stepfather are called and fly to Aruba to try and find her but are frustrated by they way things work in Aruba. They are also frustrated by what seems to be a cover up as Joran van der Sloot is pulled in for questioning and is proved to have lied when he changes his responses.
So as I mentioned before I often find these TV movies based on true stories, especially those surrounding a missing child to be very personal movies almost made for those who are part of the story, whether directly or through following it on the news. But "Natalee Holloway" also works as a drama which makes it much more engaging for those like me who have never heard of the true story and that is a big positive. It means that whilst you do get to see the heart ache and devastation caused by Natalee's disappearance, affecting Beth and her relationships you also get drawn in to what happened and the portrayal of Joran's changing story gives it a sense of mystery.
But this is where like so many of these movies "Natalee Holloway" suffers because it is a one sided account and so the portrayal of various people is shall we say uneven. It is in many ways what you expect because unless a movie takes into account every side it is impossible for it to come across as a balanced account of what happened and at times it leads to moments of unnatural melodrama. But never the less this account does do a good job of highlighting various things and creates a sense of mystery because of the way it portrays Joran and his friends Deepak & Satish Kalpoe of appearing to be covering something up.
The other thing this movie does very well is in its portrayal of people most importantly Beth played by Tracy Pollan. Usually in these sorts of movies the mother of a missing child is played too hysterically and here it most certainly isn't but instead delivers the sense of being frantic but controlled. It makes it far more watchable and when eventually it brings out a message from what happened you are happy to listen to what Beth says because of the consistency of her character through out.
What this all boils down to is that "Natalee Holloway" surprised me because I expected a very closed off movie which spoke to those connected to the true story where in fact this stood on its own feet as a drama as well. It is by no means perfect with some understandable flaws but it works and manages to draw in those who don't know the story into the various events which have been dramatized.