"A Question of Love," a two-hour drama Sunday night at 9 on Channel 7, based on a factual child custody case involving a lesbian mother, has no murders, no heists, no beatings, no car chases, no jiggly starlets, no lyrical shots of breasts and thighs, no heavy breathing, not so much as a head-on kiss.
It doesn't even have to journey to another galaxy to find its story. It can tear you up right there in Los Angeles among the freeways and campers and little cinderblock bungalows.
And tear you up is what it does. Gena Rowlands, with a face as raw as an exposed nerve, the brilliant Jane Alexander, and a somewhat slimmed-down Ned Beatty orchestrate a wonderfully intelligent performance.
They know that drama is people, and that even in a courtroom with a pace as slow as the mills of God, it is people, with their convictions and doubts, their terrible needs, who can get the old adrenalin pumping in the most jaded audience.
The plot: A divorced mother of two boys has formed a new household with another woman and her daughter. The husband sues for custody of his sons.
The issue: Can a lesbian be a good mother? But actually it asks one of the hardest human questions: Does morality change?
In this case, can we reconcile Qld Testament teaching derived from a desperate need to increase population with new lifestyles derived from an equally desperate need to curb population?
The issue appears to have become a class thing in America, and we learn quite soon which side writer William ("Roots") Blinn is on. If there is any jarring note in this sensitively low-key play, it is the contrast between the middle-American grammar spoken by Rowlands and Alexander, and their modulated, educated voices.
The same goes for Jocelyn Brando, Marlon's sister, who returns to the movies looking rather like Simone Signoret, just a bit too aristocratic for her role.
But not to carp. "A Question of Love" examines our attitudes toward homosexuality and finds them wanting. "Why do they call it gay?" Rowlands murmurs. We begin to ask ourselves what right we have to demand that others live and think and behave and believe as we do. We are reminded that tyranny - even the tranny of the majority - is caused by fear.