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Picks and Pans Review: A Place for Annie

updated 05/02/1994 at 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 05/02/1994 01:00AM

ABC (Sun., May 1, 9 p.m. ET)

A-

In this Hallmark Hall of Fame production, Sissy Spacek plays a committed nurse, the supervisor of a pediatric intensive-care unit. She finds herself irresistibly drawn to her most helpless and heartbreaking patient, a 9-week-old baby girl, born HIV-positive and heroin-addicted to a junkie mother who promptly abandoned her.

Unwilling to accept the sad, short life for which this child appears fated as a ward of the state, Spacek, a single mother with a teenage son, volunteers to become Annie's foster mom. For help she hires an imposing recent widow (Joan Plowright) to care for the baby while she's at work.

The following year, Annie's bitter, hard-knocked mom (Mary-Louise Parker) turns up with advanced AIDS but claiming to have given up drugs and demanding her daughter back.

In a season of powerful performances by TV leading ladies (Diana Ross, Bette Midler, the aforementioned Helen Mirren), Spacek trumps them all with a remarkably natural and subtle portrait of compassion. Parker and Plowright provide strong support. You'll need sponges to watch this simple, affecting film. Tissues just ain't going to do it.

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