The Deep End of the Ocean
* What: Tearjerking drama
* Who: Michelle Pfeiffer, Treat Williams, Whoopi Goldberg, Jonathan Jackson
* Directed by: Ulu Grosbard
In a nutshell: Nature or nurture? Michelle Pfeiffer heads a sterling cast as the mother whose lost boy is returned to her nine years after he was abducted. But are his loyalties to his original parents or to the couple who have brought him up in their home?
The bigger picture: Beth is the mother whose three-year-old son is abducted after she leaves him in the care of his brother while arranging hotel reservations at a high school reunion in Chicago. Although she searches and appeals, he doesn't show up.
Nine years later, he turns up, in a new town with new parents. Beth (Pfeiffer) resorts to legal action to win her son back. The judge's ruling sends him back to his original parents, but this only serves to establish a fierce tension between the couple who have cared for him for nine years and the boy's biological parents. Will young Ben go for genes or upbringing in his choice of home?
This sentimental tale is based on a heartstring-tugging 1996 novel by Jacqueline Mitchard. Director Ulu Grosbard seems an unusual choice: born in 1929, Grosbard is a veteran of the entertainment industry, but he has only helmed seven films, including this one. Trained as a diamond cutter in his native Belgium, he is better known as a Broadway producer. But he has plenty of experience of the type of interpersonal tension and angst required in The Deep End Of The Ocean. His directorial debut was an adaptation of a play by Frank Gilroy, called The Subject Was Roses, about an army veteran's trying relationship with his parents. Grosbard also directed Dustin Hoffman in Who Is Harry Kellerman And Why Is He Saying Those Terrible Things About Me?, the tale of a pop star's neurosis.
The role of Beth is a strong one for the talented Pfeiffer to get her teeth into. This former checkout assistant hasn't quite lived up to her undoubted talent, although she nearly snagged an Academy Award( with Love Field. In this poignant drama, which presses all the right buttons as the young boy teeters between the family who cared for him and those who loved him first, Pfeiffer provides the film's core of emotional strength.