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Farrow a Standout in Poignant ‘Never’

TIMES STAFF WRITER

The deteriorating effects of early onset Alzheimer’s disease are explored, with absorbing results for the most part, in “Forget Me Never,” a poignant CBS drama inspired by actual events.

Though the film is not entirely successful, Mia Farrow is a marvel as Diana McGowin, a smart, upbeat and reliable legal secretary whose abrupt illness makes even the simplest of tasks exceedingly difficult--from recalling words to finding her way home.

Farrow convincingly conveys the fear and insecurity that accompany such a downward spiral, although she initially chooses to keep it a secret from her husband (Martin Sheen) and concerned children.

Sheen’s Jack, a terse military man with scant interest in genuine communication, is not the pillar Diana could use in this increasingly sad situation. In fact, at one point she candidly tells him, “You don’t hear me. You’re not there.”

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In some instances, the film is predictable (Diana, for instance, loses her memory at a major social function for the governor). And after a strong start, it stumbles when Diana meets Albert (Colm Feore), a former history professor frustrated by a more advanced case of the disease. Good as Feore was as an evil entity in last season’s “Storm of the Century,” he somehow doesn’t inspire the empathy we have for Diana’s plight. Albert was the first member of Diana’s patient support group.

Meanwhile, Farrow and Sheen interact beautifully together, bringing credibility to their scenes as a long-married couple facing the first real challenge of their lives.

Based on a memoir by the protagonist, the film’s teleplay was written by Renee Longstreet and directed by Robert Allan Ackerman, whose close-ups and camera angles help us feel her isolation.

* “Forget Me Never” airs Sunday at 9 p.m. on CBS. The network has rated it TV-PG (may be unsuitable for young children).

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