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Without A Trace (1983)

Kate Nelligan plays Susan Selky, the mother of a six-year-old boy who disappears without a trace on a short journey to school one summer morning.

The police, led by Al Menetti (Judd Hirsch), are very sympathetic even if at first they (wrongly) suspect her estranged husband (David Dukes).

A lady with second sight (Kathleen Widdoes) seems to provide hope (her ‘visions’ much later prove to be uncannily accurate) and the media dress up her case in their own way to attract public attention. Theories are advanced and discarded but, inevitably, as the weeks pass, interest dies down.

Even the mother’s best friend (Stockard Channing) tells her she needs therapy – seemingly the American answer to everything – when the case seems broken but she cannot accept that her son is dead.

The subsequent drama is too strung-out, especially in the closing stages when director Stanley Jaffe’s treatment of the story robs it of much of its inherent tension. Still, Kate Nelligan just about holds it together even at this sticky stage, intelligently conveying a literate woman holding hard to her sanity and only giving way to self-pity when it matters least.

The film is loosely based on the case of 11-year-old Etan Patz, who disappeared in New York on 25 May 1979 while walking two blocks to catch his school bus. As of June 2012, Patz, who was declared legally dead in 2001, has not been found.

Susan Selky
Kate Nelligan
Al Menetti
Judd Hirsch
Graham Selky
David Dukes
Jocelyn Norris
Stockard Channing
Margaret Mayo
Jacqueline Brookes
Keith McDermott
Ms Hauser
Kathleen Widdoes
Alex Selky
Danny Corkill
Pat Menetti
Cheryl Giannini
Eugene Menetti
David Simon
Vivienne Grant
Joan McMonagle
Malvina Robbins
Louise Stubbs
Naomi Blum
Deborah Carlson
Charles Brown

Stanley R. Jaffe