Bridge To Silence Collapses Under Weight Of Formulaic Plot
April 07, 1989|By Clifford Terry, Television critic.
Bridge to Silence, which airs at 8 p.m. Sunday on CBS-Ch. 2, is still another made-for-TV movie that starts out with a domestic scene so idyllic - Mom, Dad and 5-year-old daughter merrily singing at the outset of a long automobile trip that the viewer knows that tragedy is certain to strike.
Sure enough, a drunk driver crashes into the car, killing the father - a teacher at Washington`s Gallaudet University - and seriously injuring his wife, Peggy Lawrence (Marlee Matlin), a hearing-impaired actress.
As she slowly recuperates, and her parents take care of her child (Allison Silva), old wounds are opened between Peggy's manipulative, guilt-ridden mother, Marge (Lee Remick), who has never been able to fully deal with her daughter's having lost her hearing through spinal meningitis years before.
When the auto accident victim becomes increasingly despondent, a longtime friend and stage director (Michael O'Keefe of "The Great Santini") convinces her to return to Michigan's Theater of the Deaf as a form of therapy. The production just happens to be "The Glass Menagerie" (which, in case you haven't picked up on it, is also about fragility).
Meanwhile, Marge is convinced that Peggy has become emotionally unstable and initiates proceedings to obtain legal guardianship of the 5-year-old - an action vehemently opposed by her usually mild-mannered husband (Josef Sommer). Inevitably, as Peggy works through her grief, she and her mother confront one another in a climactic scene that leads to several tidying-up epiphanies. "You never accepted me as I am," says the daughter. "I learned to speak for you, but you never learned to sign for me. I'm deaf, but you're the one that can't hear." After which Marge confesses, "I could never love you, because I hated me."
Despite the fine cast, headed by Matlin - the Academy Award winner (Children of a Lesser God) who appears here in her first speaking role- "Bridge to Silence" is disappointingly formulaic and derivative, blending favorite movie-of-the-week elements: personal trauma and parent-child friction.
Karen Arthur directed, from a script by Louise Burns-Bisogno.
Bridge to Silence (1989) TV Movie
Cast: Lee Remick, Marlee Matlin, Michael O'Keefe