I Saw It On TV – We Were The Mulvaneys (2002)

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July 24, 2015 by Liza Lou

We Were the Mulvaneys (2002) Poster

I don’t know how it works for everyone else, since I live in the U.K, but we have certain TV channels that show ‘made for television’ films on loop. Sometimes, usually late at night when I can’t sleep, I find myself watching such channels so I thought I would add some of those film into my usual loop of reviews.

I watched We Were The Mulvaneys the other night and until then had never heard of either it or the novel it is based on. The Mulvaneys (in the title) are a wholesome American family who live on a farm and are grateful for what life has bestowed on them and each other. Comprising of parents, three sons and an only daughter they live together quite content until the daughter is attacked at her school dance. The aftermath pulls everything apart and the plot follows this turmoil.

The film starts (as is pushed along throughout) with a voice over narrative from the youngest son Judd played by Tom Guiry (The Sandlot Kids). It’s something done time and time again with book to film adaptations and although nothing new it does work.

The first act of the film is an introduction to the family and if I am totally honest, comes across a little twee and very ‘Little House on the Prairie‘. As the film progressed I understood why the family were portrayed this way but as for believability, I’m not so sure. That said,  Blythe Danner (Meet The Parents) and Beau Bridges (The Descendants) star as the God fearing parents and are both wonderful in their roles. In the early stages Danner’s Corinne is soft, gentle and devoted to her husband; something that demands a whole load of emotion later on. There is one particular scene between her and her and Tammy Blanchard (Moneyball), who plays daughter Marianne which is simply heart breaking and made me cry.

It is easily Bridges and Blanchard that steal the show particularly after Marianne’s attack. Its here, towards the middle of the film when the earlier righteousness of the family makes sense. Some bad choices are made, some horrible things happen and the whole unit falls apart with consequence. Blanchard becomes frail and caught up by her earlier faith and I have never wanted to reach into a TV screen and hug a character more. When this film flips it’s switch, so to speak, and comes into it’s own it emerges as a solid piece of drama with more than a handful of tragedy thrown in for good measure.

This is apparent in Marianne’s character and Blanchard’s acting but I would say it was even more so there because of Bridges. It’s crazy but I didn’t even feel like he was acting half the time, instead I just watched a man break apart in front of my eyes with raw emotion and almost chilling precision. I went from hate to sympathetic over the space of about a hour and by the time the credits rolled I was wrecked. This film is worth a look just for Bridges talent alone.

There is an absolute seriousness with the film of course and the subject matter is dealt with in a thought provoking way. I found parts of it intense and sometimes wished for a break in the despair, if only to catch my breathe, but in reality the pace of the film is good. There was a couple of times when I raised an eyebrow and thought ‘that wouldn’t happen’ but it wasn’t enough to ruin it for me and even the ending (which was surprisingly optimistic seemed to fit. I’m now on the hunt for the novel, I hope that doesn’t disappoint.

 

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