It takes a child to teach the adults in "Bobbie's Girl" how to grow up.
Ten-year-old Alan (Thomas Sangster) becomes part of the household depicted in the movie, Sunday at 8 p.m. on cable's Showtime network, after his parents' death in an auto accident. Their will puts him in the care of his practical, blunt and sometimes chilly Aunt Bobbie (Rachel Ward), who runs a seaside pub outside Dublin with her free-spirited American partner in life, Bailey (Bernadette Peters), and Bailey's even flightier brother, David (Jonathan Silverman).
The boy's status as the resident grown-up is established right away, when Bailey, a terrible driver, relies on him to drive them both home from his boarding school. Improbable yet oddly charming, this sequence also establishes the movie's style, which hovers somewhere between fairy tale and quirky art-house attraction. (As examples of the latter, think: "You Can Count on Me" and "Billy Elliot.")
As written by Samuel Bernstein and directed by Jeremy Kagan, the movie somehow manages to include a battle with breast cancer, a fair amount of theological discussion and a study of Chekhov's "The Three Sisters" among its broader issues of self-awareness, identity and family. What's more, the movie is programmed under Showtime's "pictures for all ages" banner--an invitation for parents to watch and discuss the show with their children.
The movie comes at a time when lesbian and gay parents across the country are asking for more legal protections for their families, and as the Traditional Values Coalition is criticizing the kid-oriented Nickelodeon cable channel for scheduling a program that will explore gay parenting. A story with neither heroes nor villains, but plenty of heart, "Bobbie's Girl" adds its own unique voice to the discussion.
"Bobbie's Girl" can be seen Sunday at 8 p.m. on Showtime. The network has rated it TV-PG (may be unsuitable for younger children).