‘Girl in the Closet’ is a TV Movie made for the Lifetime Channel, which was directed by Jaira Thomas and written by Sa’Rah Jones. It stars Tami Roman, Daijah Peters, Danielle LaRoach, Stevie Baggs Jr., Jazz Anderson, and Teisha Speight. It tells the story of a young girl, Cameron, who is adopted by her aunt and then serially abused for a decade as a captive in her house, along with others.

The story is inspired by the real-life story of Lauren Kavanaugh, who had been put up for adoption, which didn’t go through because of her parents’ mistake with the paperwork, following which they regained her custody. Then, they proceeded to abuse her physically and sexually for years before the police saved her at the age of eight. The film itself is not remarkable in the least but is elevated by the makers’ clear sympathy for the victims.

Girl In The Closet (2023) Movie Plot Synopsis & Recap

For her tenth birthday, Cameron is given a birthday party by her mother, Patricia. Things are going well till Patricia learns that her siblings have invited Mia, the eldest sister in the family, to the party. Mia is an ex-convict. Patricia and some of the siblings grew up with Mia and her husband, Venus, following their mother’s death, while the other siblings went to live with their grandmother.

She knows Mia well and does not want her around Cameron. Patricia is not a woman of means and had depended on Mia (who supposedly is) economically in the past for her daughter’s sake. When Mia shows up with her daughter, Angela, to the party, Patricia chides her away and much to Cameron’s disappointment, as she is not allowed to take any of the gifts her aunt has brought for her.

The following morning, Patricia collapses in the kitchen from what appears to be the culmination of an undiagnosed condition she’d had for a while. The doctors inform the family that it’s an aneurysm, which puts her in a coma for three weeks. Mia, as it turns out, is hardly the wronged sister she portrays herself to be. She and her husband, Chris, brutally abused their maid, putting her arm on a burner for breaking a vase. When Mia learns about Patricia’s condition and realizes that she can’t take care of Cameron presently, she jumps at the opportunity to take custody of Cameron temporarily. Patricia allows it, thinking Mia really is trying to help her.

Josh Goodman, the Department of Health and Human Services employee, does an inadequate job of vetting Mia and sanctions Cameron’s custody transfer. At Mia’s place, moments after arriving, Cameron is pushed into the basement and has the door banged on her face. There, she is to live with Nancy, the maid, and two others who live down there, Joanne and Harland.

These three are kept in abject conditions. Mia, Chris, and Angela treat these three inhumanly, beating them up for the smallest disturbance or mistake. They’re also given a glass of drugged Kool-Aid to drink every day that befuddles their brain and is meant to make them docile. Nancy and Joanne have kids from whom they are separated as they’re brought up by the family upstairs. Nancy is the one who does most of the housework, and she has figured out some of the methods that the family uses to keep them under control. She is a maternal figure for Joanne and Harland and then becomes the same for Cameron. Cameron becomes a captive of Mia for years, witnessing multiple horrors the monstrous human beings are capable of as she grows up in that household.

Recommended Read: Phoenix Rising (2022) HBO Max Miniseries Review – A Survivor’s flight Over Abuse & Trauma

For what crime did Mia go to jail?

Mia had killed a man, but her sisters, with the exception of Patricia, do not see it as entirely wrong. In the beginning, the man she killed had beaten up her ex-husband, Venus, and her sisters imply that she did it in self-defense. The crime doesn’t seem entirely horrid until we learn from the Department of Health Services debacle that Mia’s killing was a deliberate and prolonged act of violence. The person she killed was beaten with a hammer, trapped inside a closet, and starved to death.

Mia’s crime that led her to jail is a precursor of what she would go on to do to those she kept captive in her basement. Prison did not rehabilitate her. In fact, it made her more cautious about how she conducted herself, reinforcing an ingrained sense of inhumanity. For example, unlike the man she killed by starving, she does provide Joanne, Harland, and Cameron with the absolute minimum amount of food and space required to survive as she exploits them for her benefit, sucking away their life in the process.

What is the source of Mia’s wealth?

At the beginning of the Girl in the Closet, Mia appears to be a lot more wealthy than her sister, with her snazzy clothes and the gifts she gets for Cameron. She is a cunning woman when it comes to the people she targets as her captives. The people she abducts can always be a source of income for her without having any connections with the outside world, as that would jeopardize the racket she was running. Her rule in the house is that ‘Nobody gets a free ride.’ Joanne and Nancy’s kids get disability checks every month, and they tried to qualify Nancy for disability checks, but that didn’t work out. With Cameron arrived an additional source of income for them – her custody checks.

Girl in the closet

The money from all these Social Security Insurances makes Mia capable of leading a life of relative luxury. Even Chris, her husband, was once a source of income for the family as he used to receive disability checks prior to marrying Mia. When she goes to get a new captive in Diana, the nurse she finds on a dating website, she ensures that this is a former veteran who’s qualified for disability insurance. Towards the end of the film, Mia sends two of Joanne’s kids, who have grown up a little, back to Atlanta with Angela to have their benefits started.

Other than social security, Mia has other heinous sources of income. She convinces Nancy, Joanne, and a soon-to-be-adult Cameron to moonlight as prostitutes every night after meeting Travis and learning that he knows about people searching for prostitutes. They’re also involved in child trafficking, which we’re informed about when a frustrated Angela asks Mia to sell some of the kids if they can’t be made to apply for benefits. The kids in the house do reduce over time, so it’s implied that they’re sold for money.

Was the police officer part of Mia’s circle?

When Nancy tries to save herself by lodging a complaint to the police officer who buys her services regularly, we see that the officer is unsympathetic to her plight and drives her back to Mia’s house. This shows how carefully Mia conducted her business with Travis, ensuring that the customers knew that they were sleeping with girls forced into their profession and expected discretion on both ends. Nancy’s complaint alarms the police officer as he feels that she could do that to some other customer in the future, which would greatly imperil this entire enterprise and his own job. Therefore, Mia never risked her exposure. Even when she sent the girls out into the world, she did it within a tight circle of people she could trust and had vetted.

Girl In The Closet (2023) Movie Ending Explained

Following Nancy’s death from heat and starvation, the family decides to pack up and leave Nashville for Atlanta, the city they initially lived in and ran away from about eight years ago when Health Services closed in on their house. In Atlanta, they move into the house Angela was living in on rent. She had moved back to Atlanta as she had wanted to return for a long time, and her life there was being funded by the benefit checks she got from two of Joanne’s children she had brought with her. The house she is living in is fairly small and does not have enough space. Joanne and Harland are made to live in the basement again, which is just a small, cluttered shed. For her insolence, Cameron is thrown into a closet where she’s kept without food or water for three days.

How do the police close in on Mia and the gang?

About three days after Angela’s family’s arrival at the house, her landlord arrives to get the rent. He inquires about the complaints he’s received about some bad smell emanating from the house and reminds her of the rules of the house, which say that there cannot be any pets and no one should live down in the basement. While leaving the house, he hears some sounds from the basement and breaks the lock to check if Angela has kept a pet there.

The stench in there disgusts him, and much to his distress, he finds not animals but Joanne and Harland in there. He immediately calls the police, who raids the house that night. The entire family is arrested while they manage to save a half-dead Cameron locked in the closet. She then reunites with her mother after almost a decade.

In the epilogue of the Girl in the Closet, Mia appears before a court to appeal for parole five years later while serving a sentence in a maximum security prison. She claims that her abusive and difficult childhood equipped her to deal with the world in a certain way, so she had to resort to the crimes she had committed. She feigns regret to gain their sympathy, but Cameron stands up and testifies to her evil nature, which makes her undeserving of any sympathy.

Mia returns to the prison, and the title cards inform us that all the real perpetrators, on whom the story is based, were given lengthy sentences while the Health Services in the city that failed to protect the victims had to settle a lawsuit out of court.

Also, Read: The Trials of Gabriel Fernandez [2020] Netflix Review – A Shocking Case of Child Abuse, Murder and Institutional Negligence

Girl in the Closet (2023) Movie Links: IMDbRotten Tomatoes
Girl in the Closet (2023) Movie Cast: Tami Roman, Remy Ma, Stevie Baggs Jr.
Where to watch Girl In The Closet

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