Picks and Pans Review: The Blackwater Lightship

updated 02/09/2004 AT 01:00 AM EST

originally published 02/09/2004 AT 01:00 AM EST


CBS (Wed., Feb. 4, 9 p.m. ET)

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You'll be disappointed in this Hallmark Hall of Fame film, well-acted though it is, if you expect one big revelation to explain why three generations of Irish women can't simply get along. The Blackwater Lightship, based on a novel by Colm Toibin, is intelligent enough to recognize that family bitterness can build over the years until the reasons for it become obscured.

Elderly grandmother Dora (an unabashedly dowdy Angela Lansbury), her widowed daughter Lily (Dianne Wiest) and Lily's married daughter Helen (Gina McKee) all find themselves in Dora's modest seaside home when Helen's brother Declan (Keith McErlean) comes there for a final visit as he enters the late stages of AIDS. Moved by Declan's condition—and perhaps shamed by the way his loyal friends (Sam Robards and Brian F. O'Byrne) serve as his surrogate family—the women move haltingly toward reconciliation. We see that mistakes and misunderstandings gradually led to habitual estrangement, but there's no easy answer to why they let the situation fester so long. As sometimes happens in life, it just went on.

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