China Beach has always evinced a certain fondness for melodrama, A Promise to Keep, headed up by China’s producer-director, John Sacret Young, and star, Dana Delany, positively wallows in it. The premise is a heartbreaker: Delany’s sister-in-law (Mimi Kennedy) dies of cancer just days after the woman’s husband was killed in a train accident. The couple’s four children are then adopted by Delany and her husband, played by William Russ (Wiseguy, Capital News).
You can imagine the problems that arise: The young orphans are sad and angry and confused and quarrelsome; they fight with Delany’s and Russ’ three children, and let off steam with dangerous pranks like blowing up neighborhood mailboxes. The newly bursting household becomes a place of great tension. The new arrivals also put a strain on Delany’s marriage. It’s merciful that Delany and Russ are so good — so understated and yet adept at conveying all their conflicting emotions about this situation — because the script is solemn, obvious (Russ to Delany: ”I realized that when we took those kids in, our life couldn’t be the same?You and the kids — that’s my life”), and resolutely drippy. C