November 13, 1978 12:00 PM

Glenda Jackson has made a career of portraying tense, chilly women, but this time, as the eccentric English poet Stevie Smith, she injects unexpected warmth and empathy into a part that could have been sterile. Mona Washbourne as her fussy, supportive aunt is also extraordinary, and the only other actors with substantial roles are the gifted Trevor Howard and Alec McCowan. While matters get a trifle claustrophobic (the camera rarely leaves the poet’s house), director Robert Enders has turned Hugh Whitemore’s play into a surprisingly affecting movie. (R)

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