August 03, 1981 12:00 PM

Any director who casts Liv Ullmann must be tempted to fill the screen with extreme close-ups of her expressive face. Anthony Harvey, whose films run from the sublime The Lion in Winter to the unfortunate Players, didn’t even try to resist. He keeps his and everyone else’s eyes glued on Ullmann as she goes from stern to meltingly vulnerable to wry to homicidal. The implausible but involving screenplay is based on Frederic Raphael’s novel about a middle-aged woman who discovers her husband has a mistress when she goes through his suitcase while he’s dying in a hospital. Harvey underuses cinematographer Freddie Young, who shot Doctor Zhivago and Lawrence of Arabia. And he puts a heavy burden on Amanda Redman, a screen newcomer who plays the mistress. Redman, kittenishly beguiling yet volatile, stands up against Ullmann in a series of confrontations as the two women seek traces of their lost lover in each other They seem to overdo it when they become lovers themselves—the lesbian scenes are sensual but discreet—and a lot of tension just leaks away The movie is never uninteresting, though. There are worse things to do than spend much of 104 minutes looking at Liv Ullmann’s face. (R)

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