Is 'Stockholm, Pennsylvania' Based On A True Story? The Lifetime Movie Doesn't Need Fact To Be Compelling
If you've ever watched a Lifetime movie, or even if you've briefly flipped past the channel while trying to find some variation of the Real Housewives franchise, you know that the network is no stranger to abduction narratives. Sometimes the movies are clearly fictionalized, but every so often you get a movie like Cleveland Abduction, which was about a real-life kidnapping. These few occurrences are enough to make viewers (well, me, at least) wonder exactly which abduction movies on Lifetime are based in fact. So, when I heard that Cynthia Nixon, Jason Isaacs, and Saoirse Ronan were going to star in a new Lifetime abduction movie, I couldn't help but wonder: Is Stockholm, Pennsylvania based on a true story?
Before we get into the nitty gritty, let's explore the movie's plot a little bit. Here's Lifetime's official synopsis.
Abducted 17 years ago, Leia (Ronan) is miraculously found and returned home to her parents Marcy (Cynthia Nixon) and Glen Dargon (David Warshofsky). Having long forgotten her family, after being raised by her captor Benjamin McKay (Jason Isaacs), Leia finds herself unable to connect to those who love her the most. Instead, she yearns for Ben, the only father figure she’s ever known, and the safety of the basement she called home most of her life. Marcy resorts to desperate measures to forge a relationship with Leia, allowing her marriage to unravel as a byproduct. With Marcy’s increasingly erratic actions echoing those of Ben, Leia is left questioning what it really means to be loved.
I mean, that sounds pretty damn interesting. I can see why people are so anxious to know whether or not this story is true, because it certainly sounds like something that could happen.
For those of who just internally panicked about leaving your future unborn child alone with the babysitter, fret not— Stockholm, Pennsylvania is pure fiction. First of all, Stockholm, Penn. is not a place that exists in the United States, so you don't have to worry about driving through the wrong town in Pennsylvania anytime soon. It's clearly a play on Stockholm Syndrome, a real psychological condition in which "hostages experience a powerful, primitive positive feeling towards their captor," as psychiatrist Doctor Frank Ochberg explained to BBC, something that Ronan's character has experienced for her kidnapper in the movie. Rather than a true story, Stockholm, Pennsylvania is actually based on a play by the same name, written by the movie adaptation's director and writer, Nikole Beckwith. It's her directorial debut, and it premiered at Sundance earlier this year before it was picked up by Lifetime.
However, the story being completely made up doesn't make it less compelling by any means. Its Sundance origins lend the movie some prestige, and though Stockholm Syndrome may be a difficult thing for those who haven't experienced it to understand, it could make for a really fascinating dynamic between the characters involved. And, in a way, the fact that we even had to question whether or not the story was true makes it that much more interesting. After all, fear of the possibility of something happening might even be worse than something actually happening. Stockholm, Pennsylvania is definitely going to be one to watch — just maybe call your mom and reassure her that you're OK after it's over.
Image: Aaron Epstein/Lifetime