While talking on the phone about the novel she is writing, Vicki Miller must answer the door. She sees her nephew Bobby, who has run away from home and looks dirty and frightened. Bobby eats like he hasn't seen food for days, and he flinches quite easily when touched. When he sleeps, he has nightmares and tosses and turns, and he has a difficult time waking up during the day. Vicki's mother Vera calls, frantic that Bobby is missing.
In flashbacks, we learn how Vicki, her parents, and her sister Ruth picked up Bobby as a baby from his parents Rob and Priscilla, who didn't want him and don't seem capable of caring for a child. In fact, Rob and Priscilla met in a mental hospital.
Vicki visits lawyer Ned Alvarez to find out what options to take. She explains that Rob fought for custody after his domineering father died, and Bobby went back to his disturbed parents for 10 years. Temporarily, Bobby moves in with Ruth and her husband Chet (Kevin Kilner), but that doesn't work out. Bobby trusts Vicki and is determined to live with her. Vicki finds a solution for Bobby and tries to make up for all the abuse he has suffered.
Meanwhile, Vicki attends an event related to her novel (her first, by the way) and meets Aiden. She also has an awkward moment with Nora Cantata (Marian Seldes in a brief but memorable performance), a member of a selection committee. Vicki has two dogs, Nick and Nora, who were named for the "Thin Man" characters.
Helping Bobby proves to be a challenge, but Vicki is determined. One obstacle: Bobby is happy to have friends, even if they do look like punk rockers. But they are not really friends. People who look like that (unless they are just changing their look to rebel) tend to take advantage of others.
Marcia Gay Harden does a capable job here, and Taylor Handley is outstanding in a role with more obvious challenges. I was disappointed not to see more of Thomas Gibson (I guess the movie was promoted with the idea people would want to see a star from a popular show, but he wasn't that important in reality). In some scenes I noticed he had an Irish accent, which was distracting to me. I don't know if he had the accent in all his scenes.
Other fine performances came from Lauren Tom and Regina Taylor as therapists who discovered exactly what was wrong with Bobby and came up with ideas for solving his problems.
The movie's one big weakness, in my opinion, was the fact we saw little of Priscilla, though Mageina Tovah succeeded in a mere five seconds (in the present) in making her appear quite demented. She was shown more in flashbacks looking spaced-out as Bobby was taken from her, and behaving wildly later (as Bobby hid). Mackenzie Astin did an okay job as Rob in a later scene from the present where he appeared under control, but not really able to cope with a child. It may be just as well that we saw so little of the abuse, because we certainly saw its results.
Another weakness: we hear at one point that Vicki is a teacher, but we see very little evidence of this. I suppose one of the scenes was taking place in her school, but it was hard to tell.
Overall, this was worthy of the Hallmark Hall of Fame.