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Television Review

A Poignant Search for Home Is Recounted in 'Lost Child'

November 18, 2000|STEVEN LINAN | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Most people yearn to be embraced as an integral member of a family, thereby connecting and fitting in.

That's the familiar lesson eminently worthy of repetition in "The Lost Child," a poignant and nicely crafted "Hallmark Hall of Fame" drama airing Sunday on CBS.

Not without sentiment or a measure of formulaic storytelling, the film ultimately derives its power from a clutch of first-rate performances and some of the most striking scenery we've seen on a small screen this fall.

Starting on a shaky and unconvincing note, the film introduces Rebecca, a child whose earliest memory was "of a sense of guilt . . . and then terror." Moving from place to place and passed from person to person, the unwanted youngster ends up with loving Jewish parents (Dinah Manoff and Louis Giambalvo). Alas, death and a second marriage lead to discord and the nagging feeling that Rebecca just doesn't belong.

On firmer ground thereafter, a grown-up Rebecca (Mercedes Ruehl) finds the love of her life in Jack (Jamey Sheridan), a charming bartender who believes no one should pass on a "genuine adventure." In this case, the bolt-from-the-blue adventure involves a life-altering trip to sunny Arizona, where Rebecca, with two daughters in tow, encounters the Navajo family she never knew.

Finally at peace after meeting her grateful father (Ned Romero), sisters (Irene Bedard, Kimberly Norris and Jennifer Podemski) and aunt (Tantoo Cardinal), Rebecca sees the world from a fresh perspective, one that actually feels right for a change.

The obvious question: Will she remain in Arizona, where Jack and their daughters (Julia McIlvaine, Shayna Levine), in a significant turn of the tables, are deemed outsiders? The answer proves to be an enriching experience.

Ruehl and Sheridan are very good, shading their appealing characters with just the right mix of humor, humanity and intelligence. Romero, Bedard and Cardinal are standouts in a strong supporting cast stocked with actors who deliver fine portrayals under the able direction of Karen Arthur.

Based on an autobiography by Yvette Melanson and Claire Safran, the script from Sally Beth Robinson adeptly addresses the central theme of finding one's home while testing the love and commitment of family ties.

*

* "The Lost Child" can be seen Sunday at 9 p.m. on CBS. The network has rated it TV-PG (may be unsuitable for young children).

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