The Prices have never been a perfect family. While Julie (Kayla Wallace) was once close with her mother Gail (Lindsay Hartley), she suddenly became emotionally unpredictable and occasionally outright vicious towards her in the years before she moved away from home for college. It's only after the abrupt death of her father that Julie returns home, where Julie finds that her mother's behavior has only become more unbalanced—and she is shocked to find out that Gail has been having an affair with Warren Stacey (Jefferson Brown), who later proposes to her.
As Julie learns her mother's behavior is a case of DID (Dissociative Identity Disorder), it becomes clear that Warren has sinister plans to get his hands on Gail's inheritance from her deceased husband—and that he is using her unstable mental state to his advantage in his greedy quest. With Gail's mental health deteriorating, it's up to Julie to find out the truth about Warren and save her mother from her diabolical lover—as well as from the demons of her own mind.
In recent releases, it seems Lifetime has been putting more stock in their characters and their emotions to propel the drama of their stories, with My Mother's Split Personalities (which was initially titled under the "At 17" umbrella with the generic Terrified at 17). Played by Lifetime regular Lindsay Hartley and budding regular Kayla Wallace, Gail and Julie make the film's main heroines painstakingly authentic and sympathetic. Before the film even begins, Gail and Julie's relationship is on the rocks due to Gail's mental instability, with this dynamic of a mother and daughter struggling to connect for their own reason being painted in poignant colors by Hartley and Wallace. Hartley in particular excels as the psychologically unstable Gail, effortlessly taking on each of Gail's personas and keeping the viewer on their toes. One moment, you'll have your heart breaking for Gail being at the mercy of both her own mind and a greedy couple willing and able to take advantage of her to get what they want, and the next, you'll be floored by how vicious and scary Gail becomes under the influence of her alternate personalities. Ultimately, though, the movie allows for Gail to retain agency over her situation as it becomes more dire, leading to a climax that feels very earned and cathartic for those involved.
Kayla Wallace is similarly deep in her portrayal of main protagonist Julie, with her backstory regarding her struggles with her mother making you truly feel for her and want her to rescue Gail from herself and from Warren. Seeing her break into tears upon learning more about her mother's troubled past and recount how rough her childhood was regarding her mother's emotional spirals, you get to feel like you've known Julie for years and begin rooting for her to find the happiness and stability she longs for. Jefferson Brown makes for a chillingly cold-blooded and manipulating antagonist, as does Jordana Lajoie as Warren's colluding wife Toni. Benjamin Eli also appears as Julie's friend and investigative aid Mike, who utilizes his short screentime to become a likable and charming friend to Julie, breaking away from the standard "Friend With Convenient Technological Know-How" role.
While it likely shouldn't be used as a teaching tool for the ins and outs of DID, My Mother's Split Personalities is a brilliantly acted and tense thriller, providing both dramatic thrills and deep heart thanks to the incredible talent behind it and a well-written script. If, like me, you've become a fan of Lindsay Hartley's work on Lifetime, My Mother's Split Personalities makes for an easy recommendation.
Score: 10 out of 10 "lights."