When schizophrenia cracks up young Nikki Glover (Nancy McKeon), a hitherto happy college student, it threatens to do the same to her family. "Strange Voices" (tonight at 9 on NBC Channels 4, 36 and 39) is a wrenching look at Nikki's and her family's struggles to stay whole.
McKeon shows us the little girl lost as well as the ball of ferocious fury. But the film is just as much the story of the parents. Writers Donna Dottley Powers and Wayne Powers are adept at conveying the special terrors and irrational guilts that afflict parents who suddenly must find mental institutions instead of educational institutions for their children.
Making a triumphant return to NBC, after the unpleasantness of the "Valerie" controversy, Valerie Harper delivers a restlessly passionate performance as the mother and rock of Gibraltar of the benighted family.
Stephen Macht wisely makes no attempt to soften up his portrait of the father, a man who withdraws because he can't cope. Tricia Fisher is first-rate as the frightened and frustrated sister.
Arthur Allan Seidelman directed without visual flourishes but with careful attention to detail and pacing. Coming in the wake of the Emmy Award-winning "The Promise," "Strange Voices" proves that the market for schizophrenia movies is bigger than we imagined.