NEW YORK (CNS) — A prison for young female offenders provides the unlikely setting for a television drama about hope and new beginnings in “Firelight.” This latest, characteristically wholesome Hallmark Hall of Fame presentation — written by Ligiah Villalobos and directed by Darnell Martin — airs on ABC-TV Sunday, April 22, 9-11 p.m. EDT.
Cuba Gooding Jr. stars as Dwayne Johnson, nicknamed DJ, the facility’s dedicated and compassionate youth counselor. When new inmate Caroline Magabo (Q’orianka Kilcher) arrives on the scene after being nabbed in a botched robbery led by her deadbeat boyfriend, DJ sets his sights on helping her reform and keep out of further trouble. So, too, does model prisoner Terry Easle (DeWanda Wise).
Terry heads the inmates’ elite volunteer firefighting team, a unit primarily dedicated to battling local brush fires that she eventually convinces Caroline to join. Membership in the force and educational engagement with — of all things — Plato’s “Republic,” a text to which Terry introduces her newfound friend, become the vehicles propelling Caroline toward a better life.
While the redemption the program celebrates is entirely of the self-improvement variety — Caroline and DJ discuss the need to “buy yourself back” when you’ve done something genuinely harmful — it nonetheless strikes a secular note that’s at least in harmony with the spiritual themes of the Easter season.
Although its brief portrayals of crime and the effects of physical abuse may mark this offering as too mature for the youngest, teen viewers and their elders will find it an inspiring tale replete with positive values.
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Mulderig is on the staff of Catholic News Service.