By Leah Rozen
Updated November 26, 2001 12:00 PM

Rob Morrow, Laura Linney

Actors love to play characters suffering from mental or physical disabilities (see review above). The latest to take up the challenge is Morrow, who leaves the quirkiness of Northern Exposure‘s Dr. Joel Fleischman behind to take on the involuntary quirks of a man afflicted with Tourette’s syndrome.

In Maze, a small but compelling romantic drama that Morrow also directed and cowrote, he portrays Lyle Maze, a lonely New York City artist who fears his physical and verbal tics will scare off women. When his buddy Mike (Craig Sheffer), a physician, heads off to a job in Burundi, he leaves behind his girlfriend, Callie (Linney), unaware that she’s pregnant. While Mike is away, Lyle and Callie grow friendly and eventually fall in love, though neither is willing to admit as much. Then Mike returns.

By keeping its ambitions small and avoiding sugar traps for the most part, Maze rises above a mere vanity project. Morrow makes Lyle complicated beyond just his medical condition and, as a director, elicits a lovely performance from Linney. He has less success when he tries to show Lyle’s visual point of view by using a jittery, handheld camera, and near the end he steers several scenes toward soap opera. (R)

Bottom Line: Worth traversing