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The peaks of emotional truth in Sundance TV’s original miniseries “One Child” are intense, poignant, heartbreaking — and too few and far between to make the two-night event sufficiently credible or involving.
Katie Leung (“Harry Potter”) stars in the four-hour melodrama, co-produced with the BBC and written by Guy Hibbert (“Five Minutes in Heaven”) about a young Chinese-born woman, adopted by British parents, suddenly finding herself pulled back into a former life she cannot remember.
The setup is promising, especially as Mei is abruptly thrust from the overly quaint country home of her parents to the teeming, noisy streets of Guangzhou.
Mei goes to meet her brother Ajin (Sebastian So) who weeps and tells his sister that through a single small window in his jail cell, he can look up at the sky at night and see a single star that gives him hope.
The predictability level is through the roof in both nights of the miniseries as Hibbert repeatedly sets us up for optimism and then snatches it away in a hackneyed flash.
Mei hires a powerful private eye at great cost (borrowing her adoptive parents’ entire life savings, of course) who engineers a way to get the witnesses, some of whom are Nigerian expats, into changing their stories.
Perkins is completely subsumed by the biliousness of her role as Mei’s American-born adoptive mother, worried that Mei will want to stay in China with her birth mother.
When an actress who is normally so capable comes off so badly, you have to blame the rotten dialogue and one-dimensional character construction.
 the script is overloaded with plot at the expense of logical and credible character development, and that’s an element that even a melodrama needs to succeed.