March 05, 2001 12:00 PM

ABC (Sun., March 4, 9 p.m. ET)

Slow-paced and suffused with melancholy, this Oprah Winfrey Presents TV movie clearly has no aspirations to be escapist entertainment. But the acting and the atmosphere should hold you, even if you have doubts about the story (taken from a novel by Elizabeth Strout).

Elisabeth Shue, best known for the role of the gold-hearted hooker in Leaving Las Vegas, is excellent as Isabelle, a small-town single mother in the early ’70s who is prim to the point of severity. Isabelle treats her daughter (Hanna Hall) cruelly after discovering the teen’s sexual involvement with a high school teacher (subtly played by Martin Donovan). But you never entirely turn against Isabelle, because Shue makes you feel the ache of her loneliness.

Amy and Isabelle is too dependent on voice-over narration, and the film ultimately turns on a revelation that I found predictable and implausible. Fortunately it has what matters most: characters worth caring about.

Bottom Line: Sensitive drama

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