An orphaned child mourns a recently deceased mother and wonders what ever became of the father the child never knew… a father shipped off to serve in Iraq during the first Gulf War.
This is the backstory to…SECRET AT ARROW LAKE, a PureFlix DVD release which I reviewed on Tuesday.
It also rather curiously serves as the backstory to… FIELD OF VISION, an Walmart and Procter & Gamble Family Movie Night production which aired June 11. In this latter case, Cory is a high school senior and foster child who transfers to yet another new school… where he is bullied by the Old Guard on the school’s football team.
The foreground to FIELD OF VISION revolves not around Cory but around Lucy, the grade-schooler sister of the high school’s star quarterback, Tyler. The team is angling for its first ever state championship, but through the strange magic of an old video camera that Lucy picks up at a second-hand shop, Tyler learns that two of his key teammates have been bullying Cory.
Striving to live up to ideals of conscience and fair play, Tyler turns in his teammates and jeopardizes the team's dream. Can Cory step in to fill some pretty big empty shoes? Who is his father? What is the deal with the horses Lucy sees in that video camera? Why does its battery never run low?
It's magic, dummy.
Low Budget No Great Drawback
The theme of the program, of course, is bullying. The film's low budget betrays itself in sketchy football sequences and thinly-drawn characterizations—but that's not unusual with TV movie-of-the-week fare, and it's no great drawback here. The production puts its entire focus and budget on the line in making sure we understand that bullying is bad, and modern-day knights in shining armor are those who go through channels to stop bullying in its tracks. No vigilante justice here.
And it's a worthy message. Star Faith Ford, who plays Tyler and Lucy's mother (who is, uh, also Cory's school counselor), said during a screening/chat-session earlier this week that she was drawn to the project because "it had a lot of heart with a message, without being preachy." That's true.
The story is personal for Ford, too. "I had personal experiences with bullying in elementary school," she told one chat participant, "because I was a shy, skinny child. … Different children are targets. 'Small, heavy, skinny, etc.' all are prime targets for bullying."
Guidance Counselor in the Home
How did she deal with it? With the help of a very supportive mother. The key, she says, is to "support a climate of no bullying: create a safe place for open dialogue in the household. My mother used to have discussion time every afternoon so we could review our whole day with her. If you start early with kids, they get used to doing it every day. My mother was like a guidance counselor in our home."
Ford hopes the takeaway from the movie is that those who have been bullied "will come up with some solutions to their situation," and that kids who "know some kids who have been bullied" might "find some direction from this film on how to deal with it."
Kids Connect to Stories – Not Messages
It’s a good goal, but I'm not sure how effective the film will be in doing so. The aims of the film are so broad—focusing equally on grade-schooler Lucy, jock Tyler, and sensitive nerd/athlete Cory—that the story never really gains much momentum. And stories are what kids connect to, not messages.
The best way the film is likely to work, though, is to encourage parents to be more involved in their children’s lives. And that's always a good thing.
To the credit of the film's director, Gregg Champion, he draws very engaging performances out of Alyssa Shafer and Joe Adler as Lucy and Cory—and without strong leads, the story would fall distinctly flat.
This film is nonetheless a great option for family viewing on broadcast TV—and such chances don't come along often. Just don't expect it to, ahem, change your kids' lives forever.
FIELD OF VISION is unrated, but this is very G material.
Courtesy of a national publicist, Greg screened FIELD OF VISION online during a promotional chat opportunity with star Faith Ford.