Picks and Pans Review: Old Man

updated 02/10/1997 AT 01:00 AM EST

originally published 02/10/1997 AT 01:00 AM EST

CBS (Sun., Feb. 9, 9 p.m. ET)


Be warned that this Hallmark Hall of Fame production is based on a story by William Faulkner, who did not win his Nobel Prize for page-turners, and has a teleplay by Horton Foote, whose earlier work {Tender Mercies, The Trip to Bountiful) is hardly marked by slam-bang action. You won't be on the edge of your seat for two hours, but you will be amply rewarded for the time you spend with this 1920s odyssey of a prison-farm inmate (Arliss Howard) who doggedly carries out the warden's order to row to the rescue of a poor, pregnant woman (Jeanne Tripplehorn) trapped in a tree by a raging flood on Old Man River, the Mississippi.

Abandoned by her husband, the woman gives birth in the midst of the emergency, and the convict is forced into a sort of surrogate fatherhood as fate floats them from Mississippi cotton country to the Louisiana bayou to the city of New Orleans and all the way back. The journey is not entirely without adventure, but our principal pleasure lies in watching these characters go with the flow and open their eyes to a few of life's possibilities. Howard plays an inarticulate man with remarkable expressiveness. Tripplehorn is beautifully down-to-earth. And the location photography is a natural wonder.

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