Picks and Pans Review: The Visit

updated 05/07/2001 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 05/07/2001 AT 01:00 AM EDT

Hill Harper, Billy Dee Williams, Obba Babatundé

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It's a rare film that accurately captures the complicated give-and-take of family relationships. The Visit, a moving drama about a convict trying to reconnect with his kin, accomplishes that and more in its own restrained way, showing that what's left unspoken between family members often resonates loudest.

As a teen, Alex Waters (Harper, in an extraordinarily affecting performance) turned his back on his middle-class home for drugs and the street. Now, in writer-director Jordan Walker-Pearlman's emotionally rich film, he is dying of AIDS while doing time for a rape he claims not to have committed. During prison visits with his worried brother (Babatundé), disapproving dad (Williams), loyal mom (Marla Gibbs) and others, he is alternately resentful, bitter, combative, lost and desperate for approval. Love, he eventually learns, can set you free, even when you're still in prison. (R)

Bottom Line: A most welcome arrival

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