Picks and Pans Review: The Unknown Soldier

updated 11/02/1998 AT 01:00 AM EST

originally published 11/02/1998 AT 01:00 AM EST

PBS (Sun., Nov. 1, 9 p.m. ET; Sun., Nov. 8, 9 p.m. ET)

Show of the week

He's a traumatized soldier with a mysterious past who winds up in a British military hospital. She's a dedicated nurse who finds herself falling in love with her enigmatic patient. Say, didn't we already see this movie? In fact, despite its similarities to 1996's The English Patient, this Masterpiece Theatre two-parter stands on its own as a low-key love story that evolves into a fascinating murder mystery and psychological thriller. Just who is the amnesiac, initially mute World War I doughboy nicknamed Angel by his rescuers when he shows up naked and dazed on a French battlefield in the spring of 1918? To his aristocratic and hopelessly infatuated nurse, Sophia Carey (Juliet Aubrey, Middlemarch), Angel's true identity hardly matters. Until, that is, Jenny (Aislin McGuckin), a local munitions worker, comes forward to claim he's her fiancé, John Gower, a conscripted private she had thought was dead. The introduction of this second woman into Angel's life (which, Sophia realizes, suddenly makes her the Other Woman) is just one of several devilish twists taken by Peter Barwood's script. Gary Mavers, a British film actor largely unknown here, gives a mesmerizing, multilayered performance as the soldier of misfortune; Aubrey is splendid as his anguished lover.

Bottom Line: Subtle, slow starting Brit drama requires a little English patience—and handsomely rewards it

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