Picks and Pans Review: Love Child

updated 11/15/1982 AT 01:00 AM EST

originally published 11/15/1982 AT 01:00 AM EST

The producer of this film, Paul Maslansky, came upon his plot during a 1979 60 Minutes broadcast. Love Child is based on the experiences of Terry Jean Moore, a young Florida woman who was sentenced to 15 years of imprisonment and probation for a $5 robbery. She subsequently became pregnant by a guard in a maximum security institution and successfully fought to bear and keep her child. Director Larry (Goodbye, Columbus) Peerce has created a movie that undergoes a metamorphosis nearly as remarkable as the process of becoming a mother. What starts out as a disturbingly gritty look at an unfeeling, Draconian penal system ends up as an almost heartwarming hymn to love and hope. Screen newcomer Amy Madigan gives an astonishingly mature and convincing performance as Moore, a tough-talking but fragile woman cast down into a Stygian prison population of what she calls "crazies, sneaks and dykes." Beau (Norma Rae) Bridges offers one of his best efforts as the seemingly tender guard who leaves town in a hurry with his wife and kids after learning that he has impregnated Madigan. Mackenzie Phillips is also fine in an unexpected, bizarre turn as a butchy, tattooed lesbian who turns out to be just about as full of human kindness as Bridges is empty. Love Child is a gripping, well-acted film, and if you can't handle the grueling beginning, stick around; it'll change. (R)

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