I have been watching the disturbing ABC drama, The Family. The story focuses on the Warren family ( typical Maine Upper Middle class white family) dealing with the return of a missing child, who had been missing for 1o years and presumed dead.
The drama underscores the terrible truth that about child abduction cases. Most families. in real life, end up with evidence that their child is dead or with the more insidious situation of never knowing and living with it the rest of their lives.
The writing in the story, in it’s desire to write sub plots for every character , loses itself and the audience with some hard to believe soap opera-ish development. In this way, the drama loses steam and I believe eventual ratings.
There is added nonsensical and even scandalous storylines that really distract and have no real meaning to the story.
If the The Family focused more on the real emotional upheaval of a returned missing child and it’s impact to a family , it would have truly raised the game to the story. It could have explored in a real way how family and abductee adjust to the new reality, mostly strangers to each other hanging on to memories of the past. This would have given the story real meat. Then they could have added the overhanging mystery of the abduction –“Who done it?”
Andrew McCarthy shines as the weird and wrongly accused pedophile (Hank Asher) for the abduction years ago for the boy. While found innocent of this crime, he never gains any public sympathy because of his past deviant behavior. Adam, the young boy who was abducted, is the only person that shows real kindness. McCarthy gives one of his best performances of his career in this character, being greater than the writing in his delivery.
Liam James, as Adam, the returned abductee, also delivers a performance that brings both additional mystery that includes a question on his real identity. However, James’ performance brings to light the damaging effects of years of abuse and captivity. It was even more acute when we are given eye to the hole in the ground where he was kept like a caged animal suffering the abuses of his abductor.
Joan Allen should be given kudos for pulling off some acting chops, even with a script that trends towards the bizarre and unbelievable. There are scenes where her own angst as a mother of a missing child and her own dysfunctional obsession of being a politician delivers a character that moves back and forth from sympathetic to almost villainous.
I still plan to watch the show. I don’t beleive with the current writing it really deserves a second season. It should have been a mini-series. It is not the best representation of the dark world of child abduction and the life long damages it imposes on families and loved ones. However, there are spots that remind you that this heinous crime is still very much alive in our world today.