The Familiar Stranger | 2000
A woman struggles to rebuild her life and raise her children after her husband commits suicide. Fifteen years later, she discovers that her husband faked his death, has assumed a new identity and has been living well on money he embezzled. Based on a true story.
The happy suburban existence of Elizabeth Welsh, married to her high school sweetheart, Patrick Welsh, and devoted to raising their two young sons, Ted and Chris, falls to pieces at the disclosure that Pat has secretly embezzled funds from the university where he works. His close-knit family, including Pat's parents, Dick and Ann Welsh, rally together to support him. After the ordeal of a trial, Elizabeth valiantly struggles to help her family put the past behind them. She comforts her humiliated husband, and he vows never to hurt her or their sons again. Pat gets another job and life for a while returns to normal. Then Elizabeth discovers Pat has bounced a check. Shortly thereafter, Pat writes a suicide note, mysteriously disappears and is presumed dead. A grief-stricken Elizabeth works hard to pay off his mountainous debts and bring up their sons.
Ten years pass, bringing important changes. A confident, self-assured Elizabeth has risen to become president of the chamber of commerce, and is happily dating. The Welsh sons have grown up into accomplished young men. The elder, 23-year-old Ted, is a successful restauranteur; 20-year-old Chris is about to graduate college. One day a letter arrives from Social Security demanding immediate repayment of survivor benefits to her sons because Patrick Welsh is very much alive and living in Maine under another name, Tom Kingsbury.
With so many unanswered questions, Elizabeth flies to Maine to confront the man she thought she had known so well. Despite her reproaches, he pleads that leaving his family was the best thing he could have done to spare them any more harm. Back home again, Elizabeth explains events to her sons and brings charges against Pat, who is arrested and brought to Ohio. Ultimately, it is up to Elizabeth and her sons to render their own verdicts on the husband and father they loved so much.