Mobil Masterpiece Theatre's 29th season opens Sunday at 9 on PBS with "A Rather English Marriage," a bittersweet tale about two World War II veterans who meet when their wives die in the same hospital on the same day.
The movie, from a novel by Angela Lambert, won last year's BAFTA (British Academy of Film and Television Arts) Award for best single television drama. Focusing on characters in their seventies, it is decidedly unlike anything premiering on U.S. television networks this month.
Albert Finney plays pompous Reginald Conyngham-Jervis, a man of status and wealth -- until his wife's will is read. Tom Courtenay is Roy Southgate, a kind and sensitive retired milkman.
At the suggestion of a social worker, the two widowers agree to try sharing lives at Conyngham-Jervis's mansion.
But they are an odd couple.
Reggie, who views World War II as his glory days and continues to refer to himself as "Squadron Leader," his RAF title, continues the self-indulgent and philandering style in which he has always lived. Joanna Lumley plays a fifty-ish boutique owner who catches Reggie's eye shortly after his wife has been buried.
Southgate, on the other hand, enjoyed an especially close and loyal relationship with his wife and is able to cook, clean and care for himself quite well. But with his daughter in Australia and his son in prison, he realizes he may grow lonely. He's only mildly surprised when Reggie sometimes treats him as a manservant. In the 1983 film "The Dresser," they played similar roles -- Courtenay as pampering assistant to Finney's aging actor.
Note: Americans may have trouble understanding Finney, whose character often is eating, drinking or smoking while speaking.