The boy is mine…
A three year old child is kidnapped and nine years later his mother believes she’s found him again.
The Deep End of the Ocean Trailer (1999 Movie Trailer) Michelle Pffeifer, CappaZack and photos © Sony Pictures Releasing
The Deep End of the Ocean (1999) is not a shark-related movie tale with a (preferably always) speedos clad Jason Statham as a man (probably ex-military and definitely gone rogue) searching for pirate gold. But with that title, it should be.
This drama film has in fact the most misleading title for a film ever. Unless you include The Bounty Hunter (2010), this is a film which my then much younger stepson thought – from the title alone – was an origin story for Star Wars Boba Fett. But instead, his excitement reduced considerably after he found out it was a Jennifer Aniston rom-com.
I’m urging you to watch the former film, a part tear-jerking, part heartwarming movie with the crummiest title ever – or the most profound – called for reasons I just didn’t get (but think now I kinda might), The Deep End of the Ocean. This film was selected to review today as one from Michelle Pfeiffer’s filmography. This leading lady is also the topic for my blogging friend Paul’s birthday blogathon tribute.
This film was picked at random after a failed attempt in writing about Michelle Pfeiffer’s musical numbers from her early days in Grease 2 (1982) to more recently Murder on the Orient Express (2017).
As with the present news event headlines looming at large all over the world, I wasn’t really in the zone for an all singing all dancing musical number. I also wasn’t in the mood for watching her in yet another Batman-related or superhero-themed movie ruling out Ant-Man and the Wasp (2010), or a possible ye olde all-star bodice ripper such as The Age of Innocence (1993), Dangerous Liaisons (1988) etc etc.
I had been saving that latter genre for a future review on, the now newly reviewed The Lady and the Highwayman (1988). This Barbara Cartland novel TV Movie adaptation with Oliver Reed, Emma Samms and Hugh Grant easily fell into the so bad its good category for the all-star cast alone. Instead, I’m reviewing a film about something completely different.
It’s a modern-day film about a child kidnapping, and with a secondary plot that implies it should have been one of those better made for TV Movies – possibly based on a true story – rather than one for the big screen. Instead, this film is based on a best selling Oprah Winfrey endorsed book, and tbh the kind of book that I would have skimmed through or more likely watched this film version instead.
The film plot is set initially in Wisconsin in 1988 and tells of the Cappadoras, a close knit family of five. Mum is Beth (Michelle Pfeiffer) is a successful photographer and dad, a restaurant worker Pat (Treat Williams). They live an (obviously) blissful existence with their three adorable kids, seven-year-old Vincent, three-year-old Ben and baby Kerry.
All that changes however after Beth attends a school reunion in Chicago. All starts off ok as Beth catches up on the latest doings of those schoolmates with best friend Ellen (Brenda Strong). The pair gossip about school classmate now actress Cecil Lockhart.
Then after Ellen takes off, Beth leaves her older boy in charge of his wee brother in the busy hotel lobby for a short time. She returns a short time later to find the three-year-old has gone missing. His older brother is unaware of where his brother has gone.
After Ben is not found in the building, this situation is now the stuff of nightmares. This family not knowing if Ben is dead or alive. The poor mother is quizzed by the media and police. As the hours go by and he’s still not found, the cops, headed by Detective Candy Bliss (Whoopi Goldberg) take over the case.
However, it’s learned Candy has questioned all the attendees. After Beth’s interviews in the press and on TV, it seems that the child has disappeared without a trace. Beth falls slowly into a near-catatonic depression, She takes to her bed losing interest in her life and family. This is a traumatic time for the family and their close relatives.
The plot then moves on nine years later, the family have moved house. Pat now owns a restaurant. Beth appears to be in a better place mentally having a renewed interest in her photographic career. A young boy visits the Cappadora home offering to mow their lawn. Beth instinctively believing this child Sam is, in fact, her long lost child Ben.
Sam lives with his father near the family but cannot remember life as a Cappadora. He is identified as Ben through his fingerprints. He also has an uncanny resemblance to a time-lapsed picture of how Sam would look as an older boy.
In conversation with the police and Beth it is revealed from speaking to the child’s adoptive “father”, George Karras (John Kapelos) that this child was kidnapped by his now-deceased wife – who had mental health problems – at the school reunion. Karras’ wife was Cecil Lockhart – that celebrity classmate – who took the child and passed him off as her own child, later marrying George.
Cecil’s own child had died at the same age around the same time as Ben was at his abduction. Sam lived with his family for years near the Cappadora family however his “mother” killed herself five years later. George Karras was not aware of Sam’s true identity and he brought him up believing him to be his wife’s child.
The second part of this film shows the feelings of the Cappadora family as the family members readjust in both good and challenging times to life after finding him again and as Sam / Ben returns to his blood family…
This film plot is best described within the film as this family reunite as a “modern day miracle”. It is a strong maternal role for Pfeiffer and she easily rises to the different acting challenges of this role as an actress. It is one that showcases much more of her talents in this highly emotional role.
She gives a credible performance as first the doting mother, then as a more frantic one as she loses her child. This leads to her initial joy and later pain in finding him again. On losing her son you can feel her pain and grief at losing her son. This is heard in her anguished cries, her profound guilt and behaviours and as she lashes out at her family.
These intense feelings are also explored as she loses interest in her family, friends and her interests. Beth loses track of time and in her low mood neglects her other children. Beth’s poor mental health unintentionally affecting her other son, seven-year-old Vincent.
This is seen in heartbreaking scenes with the younger Vincent outside the school gates, sitting waiting for her as she forgets to pick him up. This child’s despair is observed as he watches from the sidelines, hearing his parents fight. He attempts to stop their fight by distracting them after he causes his sister to scream.
The young Vincent caring for his sister’s needs when his mother sleeps in a drug-induced slumber. Beth sleeps so deeply she is unable to her daughter cry. Later in more heartrending scenes, Vincent hopes his brother will be found for Christmas. But instead, his childhood optimism is quashed by his mother’s fears and outburst at her husband’s family at Christmas time.
Contrastingly, nine years later we watch his mother’s excitement and joy at meeting Ben / Sam once again. Beth’s character is now presented with a difficult journey where she gets to know her son after many years apart. She learns more about her son as he is now a sensitive articulate boy of 12.
He has had experiences she hadn’t shared with him and has grown in many ways since he was snatched. His different cultural upbringing is accepted by her and the family. This is seen in a heartwarming scene where he teaches his parents a Greek dance. This was a dance he learned from his adoptive family. He shares a love of basketball with his brother.
Pfeiffer giving a supportive presence and on-screen rapport to young Ryan Merriman in his first acting performance. Merriman as a young actor in adapting to the challenges of his character’s role easily shows the conflict felt as Sam / Ben adjusts to living with his “new” family.
His true family are now strangers to him and this is seen to be at odds with his loving feelings for the family who raised him. The boy’s adoptive father also has a difficult time accepting things as he learns the truth about his “son”.
Yet it is as Beth and her youngest son get closer, she is heartbreakingly torn on the boy’s best interests in seeing his turmoil in his new life. This is seen as she discusses with her screen husband whether she has the right to take their son from the happy life he has known with Karras family to his true home with the Cappadoras.
Here her character comes into her own with Pfeiffer’s multi-layered performance as she decides on what is best for his future. It is heartbreaking when she feels she has to give him back to his adoptive father as these are the only memories he knows and trusts.
As Pfeiffer’s husband, Treat Williams gives a solid performance. It was sad that more scenes of his character with his on-screen children were seen. It would have been interesting to learn more about his feelings on his family and his son, his abduction and his son’s recovery.
Instead, we learned more about his character’s feelings through the script. The script also gave the full explanation for the child’s disappearance in a short speech by Beth who pieced together the story. It was felt this part of the story could have been explored more effectively through flashbacks or as part of the early screen time regarding this important part of the plotline particularly for Beth and her son Vincent.
It was also of note that the film explored Vincent’s story within this tale. However, we learn more of his emotions surrounding his childhood guilt through his talks with his brother late on in the film. This is as the brothers discuss the circumstances around Ben’s disappearance.
These unseen scenes at the reunion would have helped explain Vincent’s childhood behaviours. These also would add more insight into Vincent’s character. I also felt frustrated that their sibling Kerry’s (Alexa Vega) relationship with Sam / Ben was overlooked in the second part of the film. This perhaps in a plotline as she bonded with a brother who she had never known.
However, this film is unique in that it examined the effects of some family members after a child returned after a kidnapping. This made a nice change to explore what happened after the child was found. It showed some strong insights into possible situations.
Here the film gave a near rounded view of the changing emotions before, during and after this near tragedy. I would be keen to return to this family for a sequel with now many, many questions unanswered regarding other family members. I feel I’d like to explore these in a follow-up movie, showing more of the depths of the impact of this traumatic event on this boy and both his families.
I felt cheated in this film as I felt it had a too rushed ending as one where everything seemed to fall into place much too quickly. I felt this ending only skimmed the surface of things, as I’m sure there is more story to tell as it seemed just a drop in the ocean for this fish out of water’s tale.
Weeper Rating: 😦 😦😦 😦 😦 😦 😦 😦😦 😦/10
Handsqueeze Rating: 🙂 🙂🙂🙂🙂🙂 🙂🙂/10
The Michelle Pfeiffer Birthday Blogathon 2020 No 9
This film review was added to Pfeiffer Pfilms and Meg Movies Michelle Pfeiffer Birthday Blogathon. Other film reviews on this site with this cast include Michelle Pfeiffer in One Fine Day, Fantasy Island, The Russia House, Ladyhawke, Sweet Liberty, Into the Night, Grease 2 and The Witches of Eastwick. Treat Williams appeared in The Eagle Has Landed and Tales from the Crypt. Whoopi Goldberg starred in Soapdish and Moonlighting. Brenda Strong appeared in Dallas and Hotel. John Kapelos appeared in Weird Science, Class and Tootsie.