Custody (2016 Lifetime)

Custody (2016 Lifetime)

Cast: Viola DavisHayden PanettiereCatalina Sandino MorenoTony ShalhoubEllen Burstyn

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Synopsis (via Lifetime)

(Academy Award winner) Viola Davis executive produces and stars in “Custody,” set to make its debut on Saturday, March 4 at 8pm ET/PT. The star-studded cast includes Golden Globe nominee Hayden Panettiere, Academy Award nominee Catalina Sandino Moreno, Academy Award winner Ellen Burstyn and Emmy and Golden Globe winner Tony Shalhoub. “Custody” revolves around three women brought together when hard-working single mother, Sara Diaz (Moreno), has her children taken from her after she is suspected of injuring her son. Ally Fisher (Panettiere), a recent law school graduate, is assigned to represent her case before Judge Martha Schulman (Davis), a veteran of the Family Court System. “Custody” is written and directed by Tony Award and Pulitzer Prize winner James Lapine (“Into the Woods”). Lauren Versel, Katie Mustard, Lapine, and Roy Furman serve as producers. Davis, Julius Tennon, Jeff Elliott, Chad Moore, Gregory P. Shockro, Daryl Roth, and Sandy Robertson also executive produce.


The movie begins with a woman named Sara trying to raise her kids with the help of a babysitter, Sheila. When David is downstairs at a party, Sara drags him upstairs and accidentally knocks him into a glass table, causing it to shatter and cut his face. (The neighbors see and are concerned.)

Cut to Viola Davis, who is playing a judge named Martha. She recently worked a troubling cast with a young girl who was starved to death by her caregivers. Her son, Elliott, just left for college. So she is going through a lot. Her husband Jason tries to help her feel better, but she is emotionally drained. 

David falls asleep in class and causes concern for his teacher once she sees the cuts on his face. David and Tia are brought in to meet with a social worker named Luis. Then he visits Sara at work, and she is outraged that they put David in the hospital and removed Tia from school. Luis places the children in the care of a relative overnight for their safety. He thinks Sara is dangerous and has a nasty temper. In reality, she was just trying to figure out what was going before having to go back to work. 

The next day in court, Sara shows up to start court proceedings. Hayden Panettiere is her court-appointed lawyer, and it is her first day. Sara is in a whirlwind, and no one seems to care or even have time to answer her questions.

Sara is allowed to visit with her children as long as she submits to a drug test. When she sees her children, they are confused and scared. Sara tells them that there is nothing they can do, and they have to wait it out until Sara figure things out. 

At the imminent risk hearing, child services bombard Sara and her lawyer with a positive drug test for marijuana and criminal background. Sara freaks out and is almost throws out of the courtroom. Judge Martha rules that Sara can have the children, but the processing will take a few days. The court puts the children in foster care and sends Sara to anger management classes. Sara fires Hayden Panettiere and calls her a rich girl. (Which she is. Hayden Panettiere has a trust fund and is from a wealthy family.)

When leaving court, Martha runs into a friend and learns his wife is sleeping with Jason. She kicks him out of the house and slaps him across the face. Then she walks the street crying. 

Sara isn’t given a new lawyer in a timely manner. She works with Hayden Panettiere, and they are blindsided again in court. The children’s father is still alive. The court will need to contact him because he is the next in line for custody, therefore keeping Sara’s kids in foster care longer. Sara is so angry that she is thrown out of court. She goes to the foster home and takes her kids out of town. Sara regrets her decision and calls Hayden Panettiere for help. They drive back, and Sara opens up about her past. 

We also learn about Hayden Panettiere being molested by her uncle, and her grandmother covered it up. She givers her grandmother an ultimatum. A lot is going on in this movie. 

Luis is put on leave due to the case with the starving girl. He was the one that let the girl go home with her abusive and neglectful mother. Luis is also having traumatic flashbacks, explaining why he is going so hard to prosecute Sara.  

Sara’s husband Shawn is brought into court to weigh in for the custody trial. He testifies on her behalf; it is the first break Sara has had in the case. The kids meet their father, and it goes well. Sara is given custody of the children. 

Sara tells the court that they have failed her, and Viola Davis reads her right back. This is a happy ending in the world of the courts. 

It’s Christmas because that is what this movie needs. Sara decorates her Christmas tree with her kids. Hayden Panettiere is hit on by a co-worker. Martha is drunk at w work party and all alone. THE END!

Side Note

Minority Report: Sheila, Martha, Sara, Jason, Luis, Tia, Elliott, Elaine, Cop, Martha’s father, Anthony, Guard, Mrs. Chaney, 

The all-star cast can’t save this movie from shoehorning too many heavy plotlines into a TV movie time frame. This should have been a mini-series.

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Overall rating

🔪🔪 (2 Knives)

🍷🍷🍷 (3 glasses of wine required.)

*Photo Credit: © 2016 Lifetime® | A+E Networks®

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