In the tradition of NELL (1994) and JOHNNY BELINDA (1948), this made-for-TV, three-handkerchief drama of innocence abused reaffirms the power of love. Small-town mountain teenager Sammy Perkins (William McNamara) sees a college scholarship as his ticket out of the insular community. Sammy's widowed father, Jack (Beau Bridges), doesn't see why Sammy won't accept the laborer's life that was good enough for him. Sammy's younger sister, Ellie (Reese Witherspoon), supports Sammy's ambitions, but finds another outlet for for her boundless energies. While trespassing on property belonging reclusive hill folks, Ellie discovers an abused teenager, Alice Guthrie (Patricia Arquette), locked in a shed. Partially deaf and epileptic, Alice can't count on her downtrodden mother (Susan Blakely) to protect her from her abusive drunken stepfather, Orman (Norman Max Maxwell). Ellie disregards her father' ground rules and befriends Alice, also introducing her to Sammy. The siblings keep their dad in the dark but enlist their grandmother's help in educating Alice; soon the local doctor pitches in and outfits Alice with a hearing aid. Despite Ellie's best efforts, the town's teenagers especially Sammy's girlfriend, Bertha (Heather Lynch) treat Alice with condescension. Worse, Orman gets wind of Alice's progress and tries to drag her back into ignorance. Jack eventually sets aside his anger at his children's deception and takes Alice into the family home. Unfortunately, Alice has developed a crush on college-bound Sammy and unless he can get in touch with his true feelings, Alice's new life may not be as fulfilling as she had hoped. Although not a classic on the order of THE MIRACLE WORKER (1962), neither director Diane Keaton nor novelist/screenwriter Sara Flanigan ever patronize the film's characters, and it's beautifully acted, especially by Witherspoon and Arquette.
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- Released: 1991
- Rating: PG-13
- Review: In the tradition of NELL (1994) and JOHNNY BELINDA (1948), this made-for-TV, three-handkerchief drama of innocence abused reaffirms the power of love. Small-town mountain teenager Sammy Perkins (William McNamara) sees a college scholarship as his ticket ou… (more)