WOMAN WITH A PAST, a 1992 made-for-TV film released to home video in 1994, features good performances in service of a trite story about a woman who sacrifices everything to save her children from their abusive father.
Dee Johnson (Pamela Reed) seems to have a perfect life: a good job, a beautiful home, a happy marriage, and two loving sons--then she's arrested. It turns out she is an escaped convict and has been living a lie. In flashback she recounts her past. She was Virginia Porter, living in a West
Virginia trailer park with an abusive husband, Wayne (Richard Lineback). After a divorce, Wayne kidnaps their two sons. The law is no help, so she hires a bounty hunter, but must commit armed robberies to pay him. She's caught, but after two years in prison, she escapes. Now a fugitive, she moves
to California, changes her identity, and begins a new life. Seven years pass. In that time, she has married Mike Johnson (Dwight Schultz); they're very happy, but she still longs for her sons. Eventually, she finds Wayne in Florida and buys the boys from him.
Now, 10 years after her escape, she's back in jail. The boys are afraid they will be returned to their natural father. Mike's instinct is to stand by the woman he loves, but he's very confused. Virginia explains that her actions were motivated solely by her desire to escape the cycle of poverty
and violence in which her children were trapped, and her only concern is keeping the family she loves together. Before her trial, Mike assures her that no matter what the outcome, he will raise "their sons." Thus, even though she is sentenced to 12 years in prison, Virginia knows she has won the
more important victory.
WOMAN WITH A PAST fails to distinguish itself from countless other TV melodramas that present a heroic woman shedding her victim status and accomplishing a noble goal in spite of the uncaring patriarchy. Pamela Reed is a wonderfully talented actress, and it's pleasing to see her lead a
production, but none of the performances can overcome the hackneyed plot. Director Mimi Leder, who worked on the TV series "China Beach," surehandedly avoids histrionics and melodrama, but the result is an unengaging effort. (Violence.)
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- Released: 1994
- Rating: NR
- Review: WOMAN WITH A PAST, a 1992 made-for-TV film released to home video in 1994, features good performances in service of a trite story about a woman who sacrifices everything to save her children from their abusive father. Dee Johnson (Pamela Reed) seems to… (more)