Amy and Isabelle
The Emmy Award-winning “Oprah Winfrey Presents” returns with Elisabeth Shue and Hanna Hall starring in “Amy and Isabelle,” the provocative story of a haunting mother-and-daughter relationship and the secrets that threaten to tear them apart. This two-hour original adaptation of the best-selling novel by Elizabeth Strout will premiere Sunday, 3/4/01 (9-11 p.m., ET/PT), on the ABC Television Network.
Isabelle (Elisabeth Shue, “Leaving Las Vegas,” “Hollow Man”) is a very proper, lonely, hard-working single mother who has carefully constructed a life that conceals her own shameful past. Amy, (Hanna Hall “The Virgin Suicides,” “Forrest Gump”), her 16-year-old daughter, is painfully shy until her teacher takes notice of her burgeoning sexuality. When it is discovered that the teacher is having an affair with the under-aged girl, Isabelle becomes enraged. She savagely lashes out, attempting to destroy her daughter’s beauty by holding her down and cutting off her beautiful hair.
The enormity of the crisis rips open their lives. Amy is left on her own to deal with raw emotions of love and betrayal. Isabelle must explore the darkest corners of her constricted life and her jealousy of her own daughter, as well as confront the burden of a long-held shame about her past. By wading through her own intense pain and discovering the surprising camaraderie and acceptance of her co-workers, Isabelle is finally able to forgive not only Amy but, ultimately, herself.
In the 1970 film “Ryan’s Daughter” a young woman falsely accused of treason is attacked by members of her community. They cut off her hair, leaving her devastated. That scene still haunts me. Ever since then I have detested films depicting this particular outrage. It doesn’t go down any easier with this film. Although it is implied that the girl has had sex with an older man, she was simply seeking a loving relationship. Amy had no idea that he was merely using her. As Isabelle soon discovers, reacting with such brutality only serves to damage the girl and further distance mother and daughter. While this action is not done with exploitive purposes, but serves to illustrate Isabelle’s hidden anguish, it remains a very difficult scene to watch.
Due to this scene and one featuring a rendezvous between teacher and student, where he gets the innocent girl to take off her clothes, I certainly would not recommend the film for family viewing. Admittedly, that scene is well done, with the director careful to keep the camera only on the girl’s face, but it is still erotic and, at the same time, due to the creepiness of the teacher, despicable.
“Amy and Isabelle” is a well-acted presentation, with a message of healing relationships and acceptance of the weaknesses of others, but I found it depressing and unfulfilling. And if you are looking for any spiritual awareness in the film – forget it. Although Isabelle is a church attendee, when the ladies at choir practice discover the daughter’s sex scandal, Isabelle is quickly ostracized. Once more, a Hollywood production features Christians as hypocritical and unfeeling. Now, we all can remember situations where that is the case. I’m sure, if we are honest, we will conjure up instances where we found ourselves overlooking Christ’s commandment to love one another. But by Hollywood’s standard, you’d think there was nothing to Christianity. The media prefers to showcase man’s inconsistencies rather than portray the life-altering effect Christ has on those seeking a relationship with God.