Picks and Pans Review: In the Best Interest of the Children

updated 02/17/1992 at 01:00 AM EST

originally published 02/17/1992 01:00AM

NBC (Sun., Feb. 16, 9 P.M. ET)

B+

A young single mother (Sarah Jessica Parker of L.A. Story) with a history of severe manic depression moves back to her Iowa hometown, relapses and is hospitalized. Her five small children are placed with foster parents (John Dennis Johnston and a brunet Sally Struthers) who fight to keep the children even after Parker is eventually discharged.

The film, based on actual events, begins to lose its impact once the custody battle between the birth and foster parents is joined, but the first hour is powerful and well acted. Parker delivers a moving performance as a disturbed woman swamped In poverty, violence and her own emotional volatility. Lexi Randall is also good as the 11-year-old, eldest child who has to function as a surrogate parent, even reminding her mom about birth-control pills when Parker stumbles home with another low-life bar pickup.

The biggest surprise is Johnston, who after a career mainly playing menacing B-movie thugs, brings coal warmth and substance to the role of the gentle farmer and foster dad.

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