Lifetime Review: 'Deadly Daughter Switch'
Emotions run high in this excellent Lifetime thriller that adds a twist to the standard "Switched at Birth" plotline.
All was perfect in the lives of the Jenkins family, which consists of successful careerwoman Brooke (Lindsay Hartley), her devoted husband Carter (Matthew Pohlkamp), and their driven teenage daughter Hailey (Tu Morrow). But their idyllic lives changed when a simple school blood drive led to a shocking revelation: Hailey was in fact not Brooke and Carter's biological daughter, having been accidentally switched at birth with Breanne Stern (Jane Widdop), the daughter of struggling waitress Alexis (Hannah Barefoot).
Upon the five meeting, they decide the best thing to do is let the girls spend time with each other and their respective biological families, and allow them to decide where they wish to live going forward. But as Breanne grows closer to the Jenkins family, Alexis becomes increasingly worried that she's about to lose both Breanne and Hailey. As her worry grows to anger against Brooke for her perceived attempts to steal Breanne from her, Alexis becomes hellbent on making sure no one takes her daughter away from her--by any means necessary.
Deadly Daughter Switch (originally titled the somewhat confusing Deadliest Switch) can best be described as what would happen if ABC Family's Switched at Birth were injected with a straight shot of Lifetime-ian drama. Directed by rising Lifetime regular Ben Meyerson and written by rising Lifetime power duo Lindsay Hartley and Jason-Shane Scott, such a premise proves to be in good hands. Deadly Daughter Switch doesn't take long to get into the meat of its story, in terms of both Lifetimey drama and the inherent emotions that lie at the story's heart. As the first act unfolds and these two different families try to cope with a shocking revelation, the film allows us to develop a sense of sympathy for everyone involved--even Alexis, who we learn quickly has had issues stemming long before the baby switch bombshell. As such, the story becomes easier to get wrapped up in, as you find yourself empathetic towards all parties involved and dreading to see what will happen as the news drives Alexis over her breaking point. It's this suspense that carries Deadly Daughter Switch through its slower parts, and it all leads to an intense finale.
With such an emotionally charged plot, Deadly Daughter Switch is a movie that depends on having a cast that can sell those emotions, and it certainly does. Lindsay Hartley and Matthew Pohlkamp both deliver as Brooke and Carter Jenkins, sharing chemistry together as a couple and making both their characters likable and sympathetic as we see them try to navigate their complicated situation gently, only to have their efforts hindered by Alexis's instability. Brooke and Carter's later efforts to keep Alexis in their lives, while frustrating for the knowing viewer, are understandable given their predicament. Both Brooke and Carter sympathize for Alexis, and this leads them to ignore their suspicions and doubts about her for the sake of keeping the peace and doing right by Hailey and Breanne. While there's still moments when you'll cringe as Alexis's more overtly sketchy deeds are overlooked, no one in Deadly Daughter Switch becomes unlikably naive.
Hannah Barefoot returns to the Lifetime villainess spotlight as Alexis Stern, who (like Lynette) is just as over-the-top crazy as she is nuanced. While our introduction to Alexis makes clear that she has issues that become even more visible as the film goes on, Barefoot's performance and Deadly Daughter Switch's writing keeps you in the same position as Brooke and Carter: alternating between sympathizing with Alexis and wanting her out of their lives. When you see Alexis agonize over the shocking news and her fear of losing Breanne, you feel for her. But when Alexis takes out her frustrations on Brooke and seethes at seeing Breanne finding happiness with the Jenkins family, that sympathy dissipates as Alexis proves herself too selfish to stand sharing her daughter with anyone else or put Breanne's happiness ahead of her own. By the final act, Alexis fully embraces this side of her personality, with Barefoot throwing herself into Alexis's psychosis with the same vigor she showed in Deadly Hollywood Obsession.
Moving on to the less familiar faces in the cast, Tu Morrow and Jane Widdop share an infectious chemistry and bring a lot of heart to Deadly Daughter Switch as Hailey and Breanne become unlikely best friends in the midst of their bizarre situation. Widdop, in particularly, brings an aching sincerity to Breanne's dismay as the woman she saw as a loving mother for her whole life becomes an unstable monster she doesn't recognize. Eric Callero brings a likable edge to Alexis's boyfriend Nick (a character who could've easily just been your average "Bastard Boyfriend" trope) and My Stepfather's Secret's Paris Smith brings chill to her brief scene as a teenage Alexis. Allison McAtee also does what she can as Brooke's assistant Viv, though her character ends up so underutilized and superfluous that it's a wonder why Viv was written into the story at all.
(SPOILER ALERT Another somewhat shortchanged member of the cast is Gib Gerard as Breanne's biological father and Alexis's first attempted victim John. Gerard brings an easy likability to John as he arrives in the third act to warn Breanne and Hailey about Alexis and put a stop to her rampage, but his charm is hindered by two things: 1. his appearance being so late in the movie and 2. the reveal that he was the hooded figure following Alexis and Brooke throughout the third act, which is sure to leave more than a few viewers scratching their heads as to why John dragged his feet when it came to his warning and why he acted so stalker-ish when he tried to talk to Brooke outside her work. Spoilers Over)
But apart from the mild flaws described in the Spoiler section and just above it, Deadly Daughter Switch is an otherwise excellent Lifetime-ian take on the "Switched at Birth" plot. The script draws out all the emotion and mayhem to be had with such a premise, while the cast proves more than capable of bringing that emotion to life. As such, Deadly Daughter Switch has as much heart as it does nutty drama, which has proven many times in the past to be a winning combination for an exceptional Lifetime feature. After the last film they co-wrote together proved a hard sell for me, Deadly Daughter Switch is a refreshing return to form for Lindsay Hartley and Jason-Shane Scott.
Score: 10 out of 10 "Swisters"