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The Memory Keeper's Daughter (2008)

The Memory Keeper's Daughter. Feature film. (2008, 120 mins) IMDB

...The budget for a film can affect its quality...

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ou can tell this was a made-for-TV movie. Each scene is filmed with only one or two set-ups. The cuts are few. The reason it's done this way is to speed up the film production which reduces the cost. Unlike a feature film released in a theatre where the revenue stream is potentially very high, a MOW has a small, limited revenue stream and that dictates the budget. Instead of a budget of tens of millions, MOWs are made on budgets with a few million. That limits the creativity of the director, restricts the size of the cast and special effects and well TV movies aren't feature films.

Mulroney plays a husband and father. Gretchen the wife and mother. Emily the nurse.

Along the way, she meets a truck driver who lends a hand. Later they marry.

When the new parents return home, the father tells a lie. There was a second child, but she died. They took her away. Not so, but the mother believes it and there's a service in a graveyard.

With the story setup, it jumps forward to different times in both families' lives. 1970. 1977. 1986.

We see each child grow up. We see the one couple struggle in their relationship. We see the nurse fighting for education rights for her daughter. The big secret remains.

The nurse moved and kept her whereabouts unknown to the father. He sends money, she sends photos and letters which he saves.

There is a coldness and distance in their marriage. They have no more children. It seems he's probably afraid to father another "sick" child. His sister died young from an inherited illness.

The marriage eventually ends with divorce. The son becomes a musician. The wife a travel agent. The father continues his practice as a family physician and amateur photographer--it's the photography that inspires the name of the book. His dark room has many photos of this hidden daughter.

In the closing scenes, the father is fixing a leaky pipe under the sink when he suffers an aneurysm and dies. In searching through his dark room, they discover the secret. There is a range of emotions for the mother who discovers a daughter she thought was dead and it includes torching the photos. I didn't find that believable.

The film ends with the brother and mother travel to Pittsburgh and meet her and the nurse. It's out in the open.

The film is limited to 90 minutes and the result is a constrained story. It's as we walk on a beach, but not the sand, but a sidewalk and never look anywhere except the concrete in front. Not at the sand or waves or water. Just the sidewalk in front.

As a result, I think the story is too rushed. It covers too far a time period and we seem to learn so little about each character. That's probably the budget constraints at work. The film can't have too many locations, too many sets because each one means more money has to be spent.

Posted 2009/02/12 at 19h57ET in Movie Commentary.

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