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UNFORGIVABLE, 1996
Movie Review

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UNFORGIVABLE MOVIE POSTERUNFORGIVABLE, 1996
Movie Reviews

Directed by Graeme Campbell
Starring: John Ritter, Harley Jane Kozak, Kevin Dunn, Susan Gibney, Gina Philips, Mariangela Pino
Review by Russell Hill


SYNOPSIS:

A mother and her young family try to recover from years of their fathers’ violent and physical abuse.

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REVIEW:

Surprised to see a cracker of a film like this in the bargain bin section, imagine my surprise when I saw its relatively low price of £0.50. Having seen this movie many years ago late night on BBC television, I immediately bought it and rushed home to watch it. Time certainly hasn’t aged this sublime movie.

The premise of this based on true events, made-for-television movie seems like your typical sort that you see on Hallmark; man hits wife for a long time, she tries to recover and the father tries to beat his demons. But no, this is not the case. After his oldest daughter witnesses another violent and hate-fuelled attack, Paul Hegstrom (Ritter) leaves the family home for his lovers. But, after nearly killing her due to his temper, Paul is forced to attend a therapy session ran by Milton Stella (Dunn) or go to jail. Unhappy to say the least, Paul takes the necessary steps to save himself and to stop from being sent to the slammer and becoming the next plaything in the prison showers. The question remains though will Paul ever be able to progress through this therapy and become a better person?

There were two reasons for finding this film; the price of it being the first with the second being the number of years I have been trying to track this movie down without paying the outrageous £10 price on Ebay. Normally after seeing a film many years after watching it in probably a drunken haze, I was pleasantly surprised to find that it has not aged one bit nor has the fact that it is a television movie hampered its quality. The movies I have seen the much-missed John Ritter starring in have been him in pleasant enough roles that try to help people. But here, his demonic and downright portrayal of Paul is more similar to Fred West than that of Ben Healy in “Problem Child”. His delivery of Paul really is quite outstanding, and showed why he was a much respected actor long before his role as JD’s father in “Scrubs”. Thank goodness that roles like these came along to Ritter when he was thankfully still with us as if such cinematic portrayals did not exist than the beauty of acting would not be evident as it is in the character of Paul.

Now, you cannot have a movie about domestic abuse and not have someone to play the spouse, and this came in the form of Kozak as Judy. Having seen her originally as Jeff Daniels wife in “Arachnophobia”, I knew of her acting abilities but the role of someone who has suffered extensive physical abuse at the hands of the husband is something which can be a tricky beast to successfully conquer. But here, Kozak does extremely well as you see this character recovering into a fully functioning woman.

Such films which are based on domestic abuse are such tricky films to watch; what if the content is that good you forget that at heart this happens to millions of spouses around the world or if the acting is that bad you laugh so hard that you fall off your chair and end up telling your pals of this great comedy which is sure to have them peeing in their pants? In the case of this film, the former happens with some extremely realistic and harrowing scenes which certainly made me feel disgusted to see due to the reality of what I was witnessing. The closing caption of the movie shows what has actually happened to the characters we have just had a peek into the lives of, and it just brings home the reality of such situations. This ending I won’t divulge, but what I will say is that it must be caught to truly understand. The perception that all made-for-television movies being quite awful are certainly cast aside here in a movie which demonstrates the talents of all involved. A classic which by all means must be caught.

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UNFORGIVABLE


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