September 01, 1997 12:00 PM

Lifetime (Mon., Sept. 1, 9 p.m. ET)

B

Several things about this TV movie are less than stellar, starting with the title. But the drama, based on a true story, benefits enormously from Richard Kiley’s moving performance as Gerry Klooster, a California obstetrician who is diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease in his 60s and asks his wife, Ruth (Eva Marie Saint, also effective), to promise she will help him commit suicide when he no longer can live with a semblance of dignity and autonomy. When Ruth informs their grown children of Gerry’s wishes, their youngest son, Chip (Rick Roberts), concludes that his mother is determined to “murder” his father. On hearing that his parents have an appointment with Dr. Jack Kevorkian, Chip spirits away the now-muddled Gerry and launches a court battle to become his guardian.

“Why does Chip hate me?” Ruth asks her daughter, Kristen (Margaret Colin). The film leaves this important question hanging and sometimes sags under the burden of legal exposition. Still, Kiley leaves us with a memorable portrait of a warm, robust, valuable man slowly robbed of his very selfhood by a frightening disease.

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