Dangerous Child

Part of the Infinity True Stories series, Certificate 15, 2001 Hearst Entertainment Ltd

Starring Delta Burke as Sally Cambridge, and Ryan Merriman as her 16-year-old son, Jack.

“She always protected her son. Now she must protect herself … from him”

I bought this DVD a while ago, but only recently got around to viewing it. More fool me!

Sally has been caring for her two sons by herself after their father left her. There are no surprises how this works out as the film opens with the younger child being rushed to hospital in a critical state. What we are then treated to is a clever and accurate portrayal of life with an abusive son, as we see Jack’s mother battling to come to terms with the fact that her troubled teenage boy is not the beautiful baby she remembers him to have been.

As Sally misses work appointments and hides injuries from them, friends and colleagues tell her it’s just normal teenage behaviour and he’ll grow out of it. Enforce the boundaries, “just try to stay calm”, she is told. We are given a powerful sense of the controlling and emotionally abusive ex-husband from whom Jack has learnt his behaviour, and who now blames Sally for her own abuse; and there is a frightening glimpse of the younger brother trying the same behaviour on for size.

As Sally realizes she needs proper help we see her ashamed to ask a police friend and then drawing a blank in a search at the library. There is hope in the end though, as Sally finally understands that protecting the whole family may mean taking drastic steps. Not an easy film to watch, but certainly a powerful portrayal of the impact of parent abuse, and so an interesting way to introduce this issue to others.

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