Empty Cradle

(Paul Schneider, USA, 1993)


Being a video reviewer put me in touch with telemovies that, under normal circumstances, I would not have ever chosen to watch. But then I would have missed Empty Cradle, one of the many contemporary telemovies that attempt to juggle an earnest social message and sensationalist melodrama.

Motherhood is the stake here: the struggle between a good mother (Lori Loughlin) who knows, despite all rational appeals, that her baby was taken from her at birth, and the very bad, barren mother (Kate Jackson) who did the taking.

While Lori has a nice, supportive middle class milieu, and a marriage that can perhaps be saved, Kate comes from proletarian hell: bars, cheap apartments, broken families, addictive substances and heavy metal music.

The situation is obviously loaded from the word go, but veteran telemovie director Paul Schneider (who made the excellent Willy Milly, 1986) knows how to make the most of this Gothic morality tale.

Rebecca Soladay’s script even cleverly works in a feminist protest about how women with valid complaints are dismissed by the legal and medical institutions: “They try to shut you up by calling you crazy!”

© Adrian Martin April 1994

Film Critic: Adrian Martin
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