Plot: India (Jasper Polish) has a bright future ahead of her, but she also feels lost and confused in her life, unsure of what to do next. She has self doubt and insecurities, which her mother Catherine (Andrea Roth) tries to help her with, but India struggles with the inner turmoil. When she hears about a group that promotes self improvement and togetherness, India decides she wants to give it a try, in the hope that perhaps it will help her find some answers. Her mother attends the first few meetings of NXIVM, a group that studies female empowerment and promotes those ideals, home to even some well known celebrities. But Catherine dislikes some of the group’s messages, so she leaves, but seeing India find some peace, she doesn’t pressure her to follow suit. Over time however, it begins to look like there a darker side to NXIVM and Catherine is desperate to get her daughter out before it is too late.
Entertainment Value: This one was based on real life events and was part of a Lifetime “ripped from the headlines” series, another example of how the truth is quite often stranger than fiction. The narrative here will be familiar with anyone who has looked into the various cults that have popped up over the years, but there are also fresh elements here, to be sure. That the NXIVM cult involved celebrities and some twisted sexual elements are likely why it rose to such prominence, but it is also a tragic story, one that Lifetime handles with respect in this adaptation. In the hands of these filmmakers, the sexual elements are by no means glossed over, but it doesn’t feel like exploitation or sensationalism. This could be because some of those who experienced it were involved in the production, as well as Lifetime’s experience in telling female centric stories, which this one certainly is. I imagine this could be tough for some to watch, but it is an important story and one that impacted numerous lives, with a number of victims falling into NXIVM’s twisted agenda. So this is more serious and darker than most of Lifetime’s movies, but it is still well recommended.
The movie centers on Catherine and India, the real life mother and daughter that had these actual experiences. Catherine Oxenberg is of course a well known actress in her own right, but for this Lifetime version, she was brought to life by Andrea Roth, who turns in some solid work. As I said before, this is a more grounded style drama, so don’t expect wild melodrama and over the top performances, which Lifetime movies are most famous for at this point. Roth gives a serious, sincere effort that conveys the desperate push to save India, but she also brings across the love and compassion, which is just as important here. Jasper Polish is great as India as well, able to handle all the complex emotions and internal struggles involved. That is no simple task, but Polish is able to make it work and really shines at times, such as the birthday party when her cult indoctrination becomes clear to her loved ones. That scene could have gone over the top, but Polish nails it, remarkable work here. The cast also includes Peter Facinelli, Sara Fletcher, and Kristin Booth.