17-year-old Brooke Emerson (Cristine Prosperi) may outwardly appear to have an ideal life. Beautiful, part of the cheer team, and with a doting mother in Carley (Susan Walters), you'd think she has nothing to worry about. But as it turns out, Brooke has Intermittent Explosive Disorder (IED), a condition that has left many of her friends frustrated with her. It has also made her mother far more protective and invasive with her, leaving Brooke frustrated.
After a fight with her best friend Maddie Finley (Emily Galley), Brooke meets 18-year-old app inventor Jake Campali (Blake Burt), who appears to be exactly the kind of guy Brooke needs in her life. Handsome, charismatic, and understanding of Brooke's struggles, Brooke is initially drawn in by her new suitor. But soon, it becomes clear to Brooke that Jake is far more invested in their relationship than she is--and that he's more than a little obsessive over her. Brooke attempts to let Jake know that she doesn't want to pursue their relationship, but Jake is prepared to show Brooke that he's completely infatuated with her--and willing to do whatever it takes to keep her.
Lifetime's At 17 series has been going on since 2008, and every film has usually been able to deliver quality content. As penned by Christine Conradt, the At 17 saga has a certain charm and ability to mix the drama most come to Lifetime craving with a certain heart that makes it compelling for more than just snark bait. As I am happy to report, this winning combination is also present within Murdered at 17, with the film tackling in a subtle, non-preachy way some fairly prevalent issues of the day.
Brooke's mental illness is established fairly early in the movie, and becomes not only a relevant part of the story, but also a character struggle Brooke has to go through. As we see Brooke face mockery and later suspicion as a result of having a mental disorder and taking medication for it, we're reminded of the same prejudices and judgments faced by real people who struggle with mental health. This also adds a heartbreakingly sympathetic side to Brooke's character, with Cristine Prosperi playing her character with equal parts heart, realism, and empowering fierceness, with her development over the course of the film being truly powerful.
The character of Jake is similarly portrayed in more than one angle, which is definitely a plus given the accusation Lifetime faces of portraying all men as evil monsters. In his opening scene, Jake is shown angrily confronting his mother for wanting money to pay for his father's cancer treatments, with allows us to see that Jake's upbringing was far from ideal. As he blasts his mother for not protecting him from his father's cruel abuse and expresses joy at his father's pain, Blake Burt expertly establishes Jake's character: a mentally unstable man who is more than willing to hurt people who cross him and who thrives to maintain the control he was robbed of as a child. While viewers will likely hate the ways Jake tries to control and manipulate Brooke into staying with him, the film's conclusion shows that Jake, for all of his wealth and charm and good looks, is ultimately just an angry and broken man desperate to have love and security--something his violent and psychotic personality keeps him from having.
The film's pacing not only allows for this excellent character development to transpire, but also keeps the audience wondering what will happen and how Jake's schemes will transpire, with his unstable personality further keeping the audience on its' toes. All in all, I would say that Murdered at 17 is a high point of a series that has generally failed to disappoint in terms of film quality. With deep characters, great casting, and a plot that uses a well-worn plotline of a psycho Boyfriend From Hell to delve into real issues of the world, Murdered at 17 is another out of the park hit for this film saga.
Score: 10 out of 10 karaoke fights.