Picks and Pans Review: Surviving
ABC (Sunday, Feb. 10, 8 p.m. ET)
TV's string of issue movies has reached its zenith in Surviving, a painful but wise film about teen suicide. It goes to wrenching lengths to show that this epidemic, which kills about 15 American teenagers a day, is more than a tragedy; it is a crime against the living. Molly Ringwald, star of Sixteen Candles and Breakfast Club, proves herself to be young Hollywood's most naturally gifted actress as she portrays a mournful kid who fails at wrist slitting and lives to try again. Playing her wonderfully expressive face like a soulful harmonica, Ringwald can give you love or hopelessness with a glance; she can evoke a teenage whine without letting out a sound. Zach (Gremlins) Galligan as her lover to the end has a more difficult job, for he has to change his psychological stripes a little too quickly to play the perfect kid who suddenly crumbles under too much pressure. Their love story is a wrong-way Romeo and Juliet remade in a rich suburb: They love each other, their parents try to split them up, nobody understands them, so they go parking in a closed garage. When they are discovered dead, you will see one of the most powerful made-for-TV scenes in memory; If you don't cry during this one, you'd best get your tear ducts checked. Then comes the real story, the agonizing epilogue in which Ellen Burstyn, Marsha Mason, Paul Sorvino and Len Cariou as the kids' parents struggle to live on with the scars. It would be tempting to declare Surviving one tragic TV movie too many and to wonder whether the networks, dramatizing every trauma from wife abuse to nuclear holocaust, have gone too far in exploiting emotions for ratings. But that would be unfair to Surviving. Teen suicide is a serious issue that deserves the thoughtful treatment Surviving gives it. Judged solely as a movie, Surviving is a spellbinding piece of acting, writing and directing—of drama—that deserves to be watched.
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