British playwright Harold Pinter has explored adultery before but never with as good a blend of precision and subtlety as in Betrayal. The drama opens with Emma (Patricia Hodge) and Jerry (Jeremy Irons) meeting in a pub two years after their seven-year affair has burnt itself out. They both have families and careers. Emma runs an art gallery, and Jerry is a successful literary agent. His wife knows nothing about his long extramarital relationship. Robert (Ben Kingsley), Emma's husband and Jerry's best friend, is a publisher.

In nine scenes, we glide backwards in time to the beginning of the love affair in which these three characters all hurt each other. This clever technique makes us switch our sympathies and alter our suspicions. Emma and Jerry reveal a whole gamut of feelings: ecstasy, confusion, dread at being discovered, mutual manipulation, desire to escape together, split loyalties.

Director David Jones makes the most of the drama's nuances, environmental shifts and focused character portraits. Ben Kingsley dominates Betrayal with his skillful delineation of Robert, a victim who finds a delicate stratagem of revenge. Patricia Hodge is a bit too chilly as Emma but manages in the complex role to convey a variety of understandable emotional changes. Jeremy Iron's Jerry is at once vulnerable, romantic and melancholy.

Despite the spare dialogue, Pinter's Betrayal reveals the sneaky and mysterious ways we do strange things to ourselves and to others in the name of love. Almost as interesting is the film's subtext about male bonding. For some, it can be more important than any ties between a man and a woman.