December 01, 2003 12:00 PM

DRAMA

CBS (Sun., Nov. 23, 9 p.m. ET)

Bathos always seems to be just around the corner in this Hallmark Hall of Fame movie, but Fallen Angel is at least partially redeemed by good performances and a degree of restraint.

Gary Sinise (Forrest Gump, George Wallace) stars as Terry McQuinn, a fast-track Los Angeles lawyer who returns to his hometown in Maine when his estranged father dies. Terry feels the pull of the past even before his first contact with Katherine Wentworth (Joely Richardson, from Nip/ Tuck), who has come to Maine with her blind daughter Olivia (Jordy Benattar) to spend Christmas at her summer home. Terry and Katherine knew each other briefly as children, though she has no memory of a tragic experience they shared. Gradually, shyly, they move toward love this time around, but their relationship is tested when Terry feels he must show Katherine some buried truths.

It would be wrong to pretend that Fallen Angel is free of treacle. Little Olivia’s handicap appears contrived to make her even more adorable, and your sermon detector will start beeping when Katherine talks of how her daughter has helped her learn the virtue of living in the moment. But Sinise and Richardson are fully credible as a couple of sincere but wary grown-ups who sense an empty space in their lives. And the drama, despite its plausibility problems, has a quiet way of pulling you in.

SCI-FI

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