A slight screen adaptation of a play that probably should have been allowed to remain one.

Taking the measure of a lifelong relationship in 86 minutes is a tricky proposition, and the strain proves too much for helmer Wendy Jo Carlton’s “Hannah Free,” the story of a lesbian love affair recounted from the two women’s sickbeds. A slight screen adaptation of a play that probably should have been allowed to remain one, this romance-in-retrospect stays watchable largely due to Sharon Gless’ ornery performance in the title role. Opening Oct. 23, “Free” looks unlikely to break out of the gay-indie ghetto.

Grumpy and bedridden, Hannah (stage and TV vet Gless) longs to visit her comatose beloved, Rachel (Maureen Gallagher), who’s convalescing in the same hospital. But Rachel’s straightlaced daughter (Taylor Miller) — a narrow-minded Christian, natch — won’t let Hannah see her. Flashbacks show young Hannah (Kelli Strickland) was a butch loner with serious wanderlust, while Rachel (Ann Hagemann) was a sweet, repressed homemaker — the sort of easy-contrast cliche that keeps “Hannah Free” squarely in the realm of earnest, well-meaning yet none-too-truthful sob story. Decent production values can’t fend off the feeling that the pic should have been consigned, if not to the stage, then to the smallscreen.

Hannah Free

Production

A Ripe Fruit Films presentation. Produced by Tracy Baim, Sharon Zurek, Sharon Gless, Wendy Jo Carlton, Martie Marro, Paul Roesch. Executive producers, Baim, Claudia Allen, Zurek. Co-producers, Toni Armstrong Jr., Peggy L. Garner, Deborah J. Schmall, Michael Kleiner, Randal VanValkenburg, Michael Leppen, Colleen Monahan, Shannon Lastowski, Karen Olin, Janet Levitt. Directed by Wendy Jo Carlton. Screenplay, Claudia Allen, based on her play "Hannah Free."

Crew

Camera (color), Gretchen Warthen; editor, Sharon Zurek; music, Martie Marro; production designer, Rick Paul; art director, Megan Drilling; set decorator, Beth Gatza; costume designer, Iris Bainum-Houle. Reviewed on DVD, Los Angeles, Oct. 22, 2009. (In Frameline, Outfest.) Running time: 86 MIN.

With

Sharon Gless, Maureen Gallagher, Ann Hagemann, Kelli Strickland, Jacqui Jackson, Taylor Miller.
Follow @Variety on Twitter for breaking news, reviews and more