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'Taken From Me: The Tiffany Rubin Story' review: Mawkish, melodramatic, but completely compelling

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It’s not a surprise that Monday night’s Lifetime network production Taken From Me: The Tiffany Rubin Story would attract a substantial audience: It was a fact-based story about a nightmare that any parent might both fear as a reality and revel in as entertainment. The tale of Tiffany Rubin (Taraji P. Henson, excellent in a carefully calibrated performance) and her search for the son her ex-husband essentially kidnapped, was compelling, all the more so for being based on true events.

The movie did a lot of ominous foreshadowing: Tiffany’s mother (the always terrific Beverly Todd) warned her that Tiffany’s ex, Sean Baek’s Jeff Lee, was not to be trusted in taking their young son, Kobe (a fine actor, Drew Davis) on a spurious trip to Disneyworld. When your mom warns you about your ex-husband, in TV-movie-land, that means lock the door!

The idea that the kid was whisked off to South Korea, where Lee would have legal custody of his son, was suitably startling and shocking, as was the fact that this nightmare lasted more than a year for Tiffany. By the time Lost’s Terry O’Quinn became her ally as part of the American Association of Lost Children, you knew that what would result was a kind of righteous reverse-kidnapping, to return the child to his mother.

As always with these fact-based melodramas, you can end up thinking, I’ll bet you could make a completely different movie from the father’s point of view, and he’d look like a hero. But Taken From Me used the power of the mother-son bond, with a script that didn’t shy away from the heart-rending pain its central characters endured. Plus, when Terry O’Quinn is on your side, you just feel better, don’t you? (My, how far this actor’s image has come since the days when he was best-known for his super-great performance in the chiller The Stepfather!)

All in all, an effective piece of maternal-rights agitprop, and a helluva lot more engaging to watch on Monday night than Skins or Harry’s Law.

Agree? Disagree?

Twitter: @kentucker