Trail of Tears (1995) starring Katey Sagal, Pam Dawber, William Russ, Jeffrey Nordling, Eileen Brennan, Miko Hughes directed by Donald Wrye Movie Review

Trail of Tears (1995)   3/53/53/53/53/5

Katey Sagal in Trail of Tears (1995)

In Search of their Children

I hate doing this because "Trail of Tears" is based upon a true story but the way the movie plays feels like someone had tried to turn that true story into entertainment and it doesn't quite work. Now that wouldn't be so terrible if we weren't for the fact we are talking about two mothers whose ex husbands kidnapped their children as then end result whilst trying to highlight the emotional difficulty seems to play it for laughs, focussing on the women being total opposites. It ends up diluting the power of the story and ends up often coming across as corny as it tries to have fun with the positive Cheryl and the down to earth, pessimistic Annie.

For Annie (Katey Sagal - Three Wise Guys) life is tough, she works all hours as a card dealer in a Reno casino and has to leave her children with her mum. To make matters worse her ex husband David (William Russ) is putting pressure on her over the children and one day decides to run off with them. In Lincoln, Nebraska lives Cheryl (Pam Dawber) who finds herself dealing with the same problem when her ex-husband Michael (Jeffrey Nordling) decides to run off with their children. 6 months later Cheryl calls Annie having found her name from the missing children's network and despite being chalk n cheese hit the road together in search of their children.

Pam Dawber in Trail of Tears (1995)

So "Trail of Tears" is another one of those TV movies which is inspired by a true story, a true story which I am not aware of. But as I said it feels like who ever was behind the movie saw that there was some sort of comic potential to the storyline because Annie and Cheryl were so different, one positive and expects life to be perfect the other pessimistic, only expecting the worst so she is never disappointed. And in fairness there is some amusement from this chalk n cheese relationship which is played out with some obvious clashes in personality and there is also some humour with Eileen Brennan's chain smoking performance as Annie's mum.

But the trouble is that the humour of this buddy situation ends up diluting the actual story and emotion. It does its best to highlight the stress on the women especially as on their journey they get sightings reported but because every emotional scene is followed by a light hearted one it loses a lot of power. And that is a shame because at times "Trail of Tears" is on the money and delivers some astonishingly powerful scenes especially towards its dramatic climax.

The movie is at its best when it focuses on the character of Annie and Katey Sagal because with her being the pessimistic character you end up feeling for her more. Maybe it is because Pam Dawber plays Cheryl as so positive that it has a knock on effect of making her too comically chipper and so makes Annie more down to earth. But as an odd couple Sagal and Dawber certainly deliver some comical moments even if they end up watering the emotion down.

What this all boils down to is that "Trail of Tears" is in truth not terrible but it is a movie which suffers for trying to deliver humour from a dramatic storyline making it at times corny.