Dir: John Kaye. US. 1999. 95 mins.

Prod co: Green Moon. Co-prod: Tani Cohen. Int'l Sales: Nu Image/Millennium Films, tel: (1) 310 246 0240. Exec prods: Avi Lerner, Danny Dimbort, Trevor Short, Willi Baer. Prods: John Thompson, Boaz Davidson, Diane Sillen, Abra Edelman. Scr: Kaye. DoP: Brad Milsap. Prod des: Stephen Lineweaver. Ed: Alain Jakubowicz. Music: Serge Colbert. Main cast: Melanie Griffith, Patrick Swayze, Penelope Ann Miller, Joseph Gordon-Levin, Richard Schiff, Michael J Pollard.

Director John Kaye says that Lulu was inspired by his own wife, a schizophrenic who killed herself, and one doesn't doubt the integrity behind his original project. But, like many films with a surfeit of producers, this bears the hallmarks of a compromise which attempts to turn its tough premise into a silly, soapy melodrama.

The result is likely to insult those hoping for a serious treatment of mental illness and to turn off mainstream audiences. In Taormina, Forever Lulu looked grotesquely out of place at an international film festival and further theatrical prospects are negligible (remember the fate of Mike Figgis' Mr Jones, which tried something similar with manic-depression). Its best hope is some minor television exposure in the issue-of-the-week slot.

Lulu (Griffith) is a long-time schizophrenic who goes AWOL from her institution to track down her first love (Swayze). Undeterred by the fact that he's married to a psychiatrist (Miller), she reveals that they had a son together 16 years ago and persuades him to drive her across America to meet him for the first time.

What starts out as quite an interesting study of a charming but dangerously volatile personality, then becomes a banal tug-of-love between the boys' biological and adoptive parents, climaxing in a hideously stilted confrontation between them and a daft coda with a miraculously cured Lulu painting a rainbow on her wall.

The cast struggles creditably with the often dreadful dialogue and implausible plot twists, while Griffith creates a minor addition to the flaky and damaged characters which have become her speciality. There are, perhaps, deliberate echoes of her 1986 hit Something Wild, in which her character, also named Lulu and revealing an alarmingly split personality, abducted the straight-arrow hero on the ride of his life. This, however, is not remotely in the same class.