Strange Relations (TV Movie 2001) - Plot Summary Poster

(2001 TV Movie)


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  • Jerry is a successful New York psychiatrist who is diagnosed with leukemia. When he tells his mother, she reveals that Jerry was adopted from a young Catholic girl called Sheila in Liverpool, England. Jerry's desperation for a bone-marrow transplant leads him to working-class Liverpool to find his mother and see if he has any siblings. Along the way, he finds out more about himself than he knew.

  • Wealthy New York psychiatrist Jerry Lipman's life is shattered when he finds out at 39 he has leukemia. Jerry, an only child, tells his mother, who confesses that he was adopted from a Catholic teenager from Liverpool in the UK. The search begins to find his birth mother and the hope of a bone marrow match, the only hope for his survival.


The synopsis below may give away important plot points.


  • Dr. Jerry LIpman, a successful New York psychiatrist, learns that he has leukemia and needs a bone marrow transplant. To have the best chance of success, the marrow must come from a blood relative, preferably a sibling. In a shocking turn of events, Jerry learns that he is adopted. His biological mother was an unmarried teenager from Liverpool, England. There is a delay in processing the paperwork and Jerry's best friend, Howard, urges him to fly over and get the problem straightened out.

    Soon Jerry is in Liverpool, armed with Sheila's last known address. He is dismayed to see that she lives in the UK equivalent of a housing project. While waiting in his rental car outside Sheila's flat, he calls Esther to berate her for not telling him he was adopted. At last he finds the courage to exit the car and knock on the door.

    Sheila is not very welcoming and refuses to identify herself, suggesting that Jerry to leave a message. He tells her he is Sheila's son and gives his birth date. On hearing that, Sheila falls to the floor in shock. Her daughter-in-law Maureen obeys Jerry's instructions to fetch a cold wet towel.

    When she is herself again, Sheila admits that she is Jerry's biological mother. Maureen listens in shock as Sheila relates the story. She and Jerry's father weren't married and she was only sixteen. Her alcoholic parents forced her to give Jerry up for adoption. But she has always regretted it and is thrilled that Jerry has found her. He learns that his biological father is dead and that he has two younger brothers, Frank and Derek. Maureen is Derek's ex-wife. She and her two children, Antony and Emma, live with Sheila.

    Since giving bone marrow is a very painful process, Jerry decides to wait before asking his new-found relatives to be tested. Sheila insists that Jerry stay with them and not at a hotel. She gives him her bedroom.

    Frank is married to Mavis, who verbally and physically abuses him. Derek is a scumbag who loses no time in borrowing money from Jerry. Sheila organizes a party to which she invites all her friends and family, introducing Jerry as her long-lost son. One relative is not present. Uncle Peter moved to Australia many years ago. Frank tells Jerry that Uncle Peter once offered to finance the family's move to "Down Under" but his mother wouldn't go. She made the others return the money Uncle Peter sent.

    Time passes and Jerry's condition is worsening. He managed to persuade Frank to go in for a physical, but this was really so he could find through a simple blood test out if his brother was a match. Maureen and Jerry go out with her girlfriends and end up making passionate love. Jerry cannot bring himself to tell her he is sick. Frank's blood test results come back and he is not a match. Jerry urges him to stand up to Mavis and not let her mistreat him.

    Sheila catches Jerry with all his medicine bottles but he passes them off as vitamins. She senses something is wrong and searches his luggage, finding the syringes that he uses to inject himself. When he comes home after a date with Maureen, she confronts him. He tells her the truth and she offers to be tested, but parents usually aren't a match.

    A jealous Derek learns that Jerry is seeing Maureen and bursts in on him in the bedroom, where he is preparing to inject himself. Derek mistakes the medicine for crack. Jerry is forced to tell Derek and Maureen that he has cancer. Derek tells Maureen he hopes she "catches" it from Jerry. Maureen is very angry that Jerry didn't tell them the truth. Sheila intervenes and shoos them from the room.

    Frank confronts Mavis and tells her off. She threatens him with the bread knife and throws him out of the house. In despair he comes to Sheila's and tells Jerry he is responsible for ruining his marriage. Despite everything, Frank loves Mavis.

    At that point Jerry decides to return to the hotel. There is still Derek to be tested but he doesn't want to ask. After he passes out and regains consciousness, Frank comes to take him to the hospital. Frank forces Derek to be tested but the results show he is not a match either. Jerry's name is already on a donor list but his Liverpool oncologist warns him that his condition is worsening. After buying lavish gifts for everyone, Jerry returns to New York. The only person he can bear to say goodbye to is Sheila.

    Maureen's anger and hurt only intensifies and she refuses to speak to Jerry when he telephones. Sheila returns the gifts for enough money to buy plane tickets for herself, Maureen, and the children. Jerry is shocked to find them waiting for him in the lobby of his apartment building.

    He and Maureen talk and make up, but there is still the question of his illness. Without a bone marrow transplant, he only has a short time to live. He asks Sheila and Maureen to return home and let him get on with the business of dying. But they refuse.

    Sheila remarks that she can't understand why a parent is usually not a match. Then she reveals that her late husband was not Jerry's father. Her parents had always made her be nice to Uncle Peter because he was rich. One night he got Sheila drunk and raped her. After that he moved to Australia. Sheila didn't care that her baby was the result of rape and incest; she loved him. But her parents refused to entertain the thought of letting her keep him. He was taken away behind her back.

    With this knowledge, Sheila is tested and found to be a match. Esther thanks her for trying to save Jerry's life. The last scene shows mother and son on gurneys being taken to surgery.

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