The most significant omitted detail, however, is exactly what caused the rift between Carlina and her birth parents. The movie suggests that Carlina wanted the trust fund her parents had created for her when she disappeared, but walked away when she discovered they had spent the money when she turned 21. However, the movie then suggests she is simply angry that Joy lied to her about spending the money. Then it suggests she wishes her parents had looked harder for her. It sends a lot of confusing, conflicting messages.
The documentary reveals that Carlina disagreed with Joy and Carl over how Ann should be punished. Carlina said she would have given Ann another chance, and was upset that Ann’s son would grow up without his mother. Joy and Carl wanted Ann punished to life in prison. The special also implies that money did play a part in Carlina’s decision to cut ties.
My theory is that Lifetime was afraid to portray Carlina in a negative light, so they just depicted her as inhabiting some in-between space between sympathetic and unsympathetic, which just ends up being confusing.
It seems like Lifetime was so fearful of making their heroine look insensitive or selfish that they told their viewers, in the onscreen information at the end of the film, that Carlina “maintains a strong relationship with” Joy and Carl. However, in the special, her parents reveal that she has not contacted them since their disagreement.
Lifetime, leaving facts out and then revealing the actual facts in a special after the movie ends doesn’t really count as telling the true story.
Still, I have to praise Sherri Shepherd for escaping her “the earth is flat” Angie Jordan persona and giving a gutsy, heartbreaking performance as Joy White. If Lifetime made more movies with performances like hers, maybe I’d stop watching the network ironically and start watching it seriously. Oh dear, I made myself laugh with that one.