Secrets in a Small Town (2019 Lifetime)
Synopsis (via Lifetime)
Inspired by a true story. After her husband’s death, single mother Claire moves to a small town, so she and her daughter Sarah can have a fresh start. But when Sarah suddenly goes missing after basketball tryouts, Claire’s life is thrown into a tailspin. Though the police are determined that her search is futile, Claire knows that her daughter is in danger. And someone else knows it too–it seems there are members of Claire’s new community willing to go to dangerous lengths to stop her from learning the truth, including the team’s coach. Claire will need to uncover the town’s darkest secrets if she ever hopes to see her daughter again.
We start off in the woods with a woman crying and screaming for “Sarah” the title credits roll as the woman screams again.
Cut to the woman, whose name is Claire and her teenage daughter… Sarah. They have moved to a small town from Chicago and are heading to school for their first day. Sarah is a student, obviously, and Claire is the new vice-principal. (She is also widowed, the husband died of cancer) Sarah is, apparently, really good at basketball (we know this from a cool montage with hip hop!) and get recruited to play for the team. (Or Claire pushes her and tells her, what is the worst that could happen.)
After the first day of school, the mother and daughter hang out and watch youtube videos. Including a magician pulling a tablecloth off of a table full of dishes. (I promise it will come back.)
The coach, Ruth, tells Sarah that they all have each other backs, and the girls on the team even invite Sarah to a team bonding event after practice. (Team motto: be your best or stay home.) Claire is being a “helicopter mom” because she is primarily worried about her daughter going to a party where boys and alcohol might be. (Claire’s idea of a fun night is watching princess bride and eating mint chocolate chip ice cream…)
Claire stays up late eating ice cream alone and calls her daughter before going to bed. Sarah doesn’t answer, but Claire leaves a voicemail. The next morning Claire is surprised to see Sarah’s bed empty. She goes to school and is even more surprised to see Sarah is not in her first-period class. Claire finds the basketball team players and asks them if they knew where her daughter is. They say she probably skipped school or something, no big deal! They have to go to practice!
It is a big deal, though. Claire calls everyone she knows while driving around town and looking everywhere for her. She even stops a random girl on the street because she thinks it is her daughter. She then goes to the police, the first place these movies usually go. Thankfully, a hot cop is there to help her. The sheriff, on the other hand, is a very small town mentality and not too concerned. (He makes up a bunch of excuses as to why she would be missing.) When the hot cop suggests bringing in the team for questioning, the sheriff is more concerned with his niece, Maddie, getting into college. He reluctantly agrees to interview the girls on the team.
During the interviews, the girls throw Sarah under the bus and say she was wasted and drinking vodka at Maddie’s House without parent supervision. They say she went outside for air and she just disappeared at 10:45pm. They all have the same story, which would raise some flags for me. Reggie storms into the precinct and is pissed his daughter, Maddie is being questioned. The sheriff says that Sarah probably just ran away and will be back soon. Ruth shows up and calms Reggie down, she tells the girls to go home, including her daughter… the team captain, Kat.
Taking matters into her own hands, Claire flyers the town and asks everyone she can if they have seen her daughter. The town isn’t so receptive or sympathetic and even goes as far as spray painting “Witch Hunt” on Claire’s garage door.
Hot cop comes by, and the police find Sarah’s shoe in the woods and then organize a search party. Helicopters and the whole town (including the basketball team) comb the woods looking for Sarah. Ruth, the basketball coach, goes deep into the woods and finds a shack. The shack has Sarah inside, she is banged up, dehydrated, and confused. Coach Ruth says she is going to get help but leaves the shed, and Kat is standing outside… Coach Ruth realizes it was her daughter’s fault. Apparently, Kat thought she killed Sarah but did a lousy job, so now they are going to lock Sarah in the shack and leave her to die…?!?!? WTF. (The coach will do whatever it takes to save her daughter from getting in trouble.)
The search continues. Ruth and Kat put Sarah’s cellphone in a canoe and push it in the river. This diverts the search in the total opposite direction of the shack and heads down the river. (At the suggestion of the coach.) By the river, they find Sarah’s cell phone and call for divers to look in the river. Claire is distraught at the thought of her daughter drowning, and we are back to where we saw at the beginning of the movie. Claire is screaming, “Sarah.”
Claire lays in Sarah’s bed, crying and then sings to Sarah. Sarah lays on the floor of the shack and sings the song too. The shots intercut showing the mother and daughter singing the same song.
While making tea and crying, Claire hears the doorbell. She opens the door. She finds an article clipping on their doorstep about a freshman student who committed suicide after hazing on another school’s basketball team… that Ruth coached. Clare goes to the coach Ruth and asks her point plant if she knows what happened to Sarah. Coach Ruth tells a story about serving in Iraq and how it made her a survivor. The coach tells Claire to drop it, stop looking into the basketball team, and leave her girls alone
Claire does the opposite and finds more articles online. She quits her job to focus on finding her daughter. The basketball team won’t let it go, and they slash her tires and harass her at her home. The poor woman just wants to find her daughter! She finds a hazing video of the girls forcing Sarah to chug, while the coach watches on…
Kat admits everything to Claire. The hazing, drinking, taking Sarah to the woods, and dropping her over a cliff, everything. Kat also mentions that, oh yeah, Sarah is alive and locked in a shack. Claire rushes off to save her daughter as Coach Ruth comes home. Coach Ruth yells at her daughter for telling Claire the truth, and then she slaps across the face. Coach Ruth grabs a gun, shovel, and a tarp and goes to fix her daughter’s mistakes.
Claire and hot cop rush to find the shack. (via helicopter, this movie had a budget!) And I think Claire and hot cop may be catching feelings for one another. They find Coach Ruth burying Sarah alive in the woods. Claire pushes Coach Ruth out of the way, and Coach Ruth pulls a gun on Claire. Hot Cop gets out his gun and tells Coach Ruth not to move. Sarah saves the day by saying “abracadabra,” prompting Claire to pull a tarp (like the magician.) Coach Ruth loses her balance and falls. Hitting her head on a rock. (Killing her?)
Kat is arrested along with her teammates. (Including Maddie, sorry Sheriff!) Sarah and Claire ride to the hospital in a helicopter because she is a helicopter mom… THAT IS THE LAST LINE OF THE MOVIE?!?! Hahahahaha.
Though this movie was “based on true events.” I couldn’t find any real story that resembled this movie. (Bustle debunks this claim.)
Minority Report: Rick Watchorn (Hot cop played by Al Mukadam)
Kate Drummond did an excellent job in this movie.
Initially premiered in March at Canadian Film Fest, under the title Nowhere
🔪🔪🔪🔪 (4 Knives)
🍷🍷 (2 glasses of wine required)
*Photo Credit: © 2019 Lifetime