Based on Jacquelyn Mitchard's Oprah-approved bestseller, this story of family tumult in the wake of a child's disappearance avoids schmaltziness, but doesn't examine the depths of parental agony. 1988: Photographer Beth Cappadora (Michelle Pfeiffer) is
going to her 15th high school reunion in Chicago, accompanied by her three children: surly, 7-year-old Vincent (Cory Buck), giggly Ben (Michael McElroy) and baby Kerry. She briefly leaves the boys alone in their hotel lobby, and in that instant Ben vanishes. The local police mount a massive but
unsuccessful search, and when Beth returns home to Wisconsin she plunges into deep depression, forcing solid husband Pat (Treat Williams) and Vincent to pick up the slack. Flash forward nine years: The Cappadoras have moved to Chicago, Pat is about to open a restaurant, and Beth is working again.
Vincent (Jonathan Jackson) is a resentful, troublemaking teen, and Kerry is lost in the shuffle, both by her family and the filmmakers. A neighborhood boy (Ryan Merriman) offers to mow Beth's lawn, and because he looks exactly like Ben she gets the police to investigate; they discover that
he is indeed her missing son. The movie's last third deals with the inevitable turmoil of Ben's return, including some needlessly drawn-out business about Ben's divided loyalties. Brave though it may be for Pfeiffer to play someone as self-involved and morose as Beth, the gamble doesn't quite pay
off. Instead of allowing Pfeiffer to subtly convey Beth's roiling turmoil and inner fragility, the inept screenplay gives her speeches, then literally sends her to bed. Though director Ulu Grosbard spares us the syrupy melodrama, his sparse, TV-movie approach -- just the facts, ma'am -- isn't
entirely satisfying. If the movie is remembered for anything, it will be for the feature-film debut of fiercely talented Jonathan Jackson: His performance truly transcends its dour setting.
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