Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBB. USA, 1984. Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. Screenplay by Ron Nyswaner. Cinematography by Russell Boyd. Produced by David Nicksay, Scott Rudin, Edgar J. Scherick. Music by Mark Isham. Production Design by Luciana Arrighi. Costume Design by Shay Cunliffe. Film Editing by Nicholas Beauman. Golden Globe Awards 1984.
This fact-based romance is a passable soap opera, elevated beyond its status by a genre-bending performance by Diane Keaton (costume drama is not the first thing you associate her with, which pretty much makes her perfect for the role). She plays the wife of a nineteenth century prison warden (Edward Herrmann) whose affections for an inmate (Mel Gibson) being held for robbery and murder lead to feelings of true love. So close do the two become that Keaton eventually helps Gibson and his brother escape their cells and then abandons her husband and children to run across the country with them; naturally, the law is never far behind. Gillian Armstrong claimed that studio interference with the project marred the film and put her off American studio filmmaking for good, which is in evidence given that it’s her least complex and emotionally involving work. Keaton is terrific and Gibson energetic, but it just never gels together well enough.