Pictures of Hollis Woods, the affecting new Hallmark Hall of Fame production scheduled at 9 p.m. tomorrow on CBS, focuses on a 12-year-old girl who was abandoned as a newborn at the intersection of Hollis and Woods in Queens, N.Y., with a note asking that she be named "Hollis Woods."
Played by excellent newcomer Jodelle Ferland, Hollis is a troubled child who is shuttled from one foster home to another and is tended by a social worker (Alfre Woodard, in a powerful performance) who tries to break through the girl's emotional barricades.
The girl is also a gifted artist whose drawings often reflect her dream of finding a home and a family.
Parallel plots unfold around Hollis' two most recent foster homes. The first, shown mostly in flashback, is with a caring young couple (James Tupper and Julie Ann Emery) and their young son (Ridge Canipe), who invite Hollis to accompany them on a wonderful rustic summer at a cabin along a river. The summer ends disastrously, though, and Hollis feels responsible.
Her next foster parent is Josie Cahill (Sissy Spacek), a slightly ditzy artist who keeps forgetting things. The words "Alzheimer's disease" are never spoken, but Spacek's character is obviously in the beginning stages.
While Hollis grows to love the failing Josie, the woman grows incapable of caring properly for the child. So Hollis covers up for Josie's forgetfulness, scheming that they might be able to stay together. After finally finding a home, she is terrified of losing it.
Based on a Newbery Honor book by Patricia Reilly Giff and filmed in British Columbia, this movie balances touching and tragic scenes.
Spacek, one of our great actresses, seems incapable of a false moment. She is endearing as she tries to camouflage her memory lapses, and as she comes to realize her limitations, she inspires great empathy. The movie skirts scenes of heartbreak or dementia that made the movies Iris and Away From Her so devastating - this woman's Alzheimer's is in the initial stages, after all - but it is clear that Josie will not be getting better.
The movie climaxes on an emotionally rich Christmas Day that elicits happy tears in the manner of It's a Wonderful Life - which just happens to be one of the messages of this movie.
The Block News Alliance consists of The Blade and the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Jim Heinrich is a staff writer for the Post-Gazette.
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