Seesaw (1998)

 “Know what makes a criminal?”

Seesaw is a British television miniseries, divided into three parts, that explores the kidnapping of a teenage girl. Well-to-do business owner Morris Price (David Suchet) lives with his decorator wife, Val (Geraldine Price) and their three children in a huge sprawling house in the suburbs. Things have not always been easy for the Prices, but Morris has built his security business from the bottom up. When the film begins, the Prices pose in front of son Theo’s (Joseph Beattie) flashy sports car for a photograph.

Naturally, there’s rot inside the family structure, but it’s largely covered by material wealth. Val is harried by job demands and catering to clients, and she doesn’t have a great deal of time for her children. The Prices’ middle child Hannah (Joanna Potts) has a tendency to feel sorry for herself. She’s at an awkward age. Spotty and without a boyfriend, she considers herself fat and unattractive. She also feels resentful towards her parents and is convinced, at least on some level, that she’s neglected.

One evening, instead of doing homework, Hannah goes off to a nightclub, and she doesn’t return home….

About one third of the film is devoted to the kidnapping, and the family’s reactions to the kidnappers’ demands. The rest of the film is devoted to the far more interesting fallout. The film follows not only how the Prices cope, but also what happens to the kidnappers. The kidnappers are a mismatched pair–there’s the complex, dangerous, seductive Eva (Amanda Omms) who really belongs on the set of La Femme Nikita, and her somewhat unwilling but sexually entranced cohort Jon (Neil Stuke). Eva’s alarming obsession with tarty outfits is matched by her desire for material gain.

The film’s fault lies in some of the truly awful lines connected to the entire kidnapping/Stockholm Syndrome episode. Cheesy, clumsy, and clichéd, this section of the film–delivered in flashbacks–was enough to make me wince (I love you so much I could peel you inside out and lick your intestines. I know the real you, etc etc). That said, the film really excels at portraying the ugly dynamics of the Price family. Hannah’s kidnapping, for example, brings out the sibling rivalry between Hannah and her younger bratty sister Becky (Jade Davidson). As corrosive blame and guilt for the kidnapping and its fallout spreads throughout the family members, the family structure disintegrates. Just how the Prices cope with the aftermath of the kidnapping is original and believable.

Fans of British television mysteries should enjoy this drama. It certainly doesn’t follow the hackneyed plots of this type of story. Seesaw is directed by George Case and based on a novel by Deborah Moggach.

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