In “A Stoning in Fulham County” (Channels 4, 36 and 39 at 9 tonight), a band of rowdy teen-agers throws rocks at a passing buggy, occupied by an Amish family, whose infant girl is killed. Believing that vengeance is the Lord’s, the Amish father (Ron Perlman of “Beauty and the Beast”) won’t testify against his assailants. Nor will he allow anyone else in the family to do so.
An earlier title for the NBC movie was “The Amish Story,” and one would expect the primary characters to be Amish. But that isn’t the case here. Instead, the script by Jud Kinberg and Jackson Gillis focuses on the county prosecutor (Ken Olin of “thirtysomething”) who tries to persuade the Amish to testify--and on his wife (Jill Eikenberry of “L.A. Law”), who briefly wavers in her support of her husband’s decision to pursue the case.
It’s fairly absorbing. Most of the lawyer’s neighbors and associates discourage him, on the dubious theory that local teen-agers harass the Amish as a rite of passage and besides, it was just an accident.
The lawyer stands his ground--but he doesn’t know what else to do. He begs the Amish to testify (even rousing them out of their beds one night), he pursues an inadequately explained red herring, he marks time. His wife’s role in the film is even more padded than his.
The real drama is within the Amish community. A couple of all-Amish scenes, featuring (in addition to Perlman) Maureen Mueller as the mother and Olivia Burnette as the girl who would be the primary witness, are the most intense moments of the movie.
Yet the Amish generally play second fiddle here. Are they considered too strange to hold a mass audience’s attention for more than a few scenes?
The movie is well-crafted by director Larry Elikann and the Landsburg Co.