Bil’s rating (out of 5): BB.5.
USA, 1973. Rastar Pictures, Bright-Persky Associates. Screenplay by Stewart Stern. Cinematography by Gerald Hirschfeld. Produced by Jack Brodsky, Gilbert Cates. Music by Johnny Mandel. Production Design by Peter Dohanos. Costume Design by Anna Hill Johnstone. Film Editing by Sidney Katz. Academy Awards 1973. Golden Globe Awards 1973. National Board of Review Awards 1973. New York Film Critics Awards 1973.
Joanne Woodward plays a posh New York housewife who is at odds with her stylish, outgoing mother (Sylvia Sidney in a brief but wonderful performance). After a personal tragedy occurs out of the blue, Woodward finds herself reevaluating her entire life: she has to deal with the sale of her grandparents’ farm property that she spent time at as a child, she has ambivalent feelings about her absent, openly gay son, she has never been much comfort to her hard-edged daughter and is noticing the increasing lack of intimacy with her optometrist husband (Martin Balsam). Deciding to get away from it all, the couple head to Europe, first to London where she’s haunted by flashbacks of the past (including an intense, though, not necessarily satisfying, scene in the London tube), then to Bastogne where Balsam deals with his own memories of serving there in World War II. One of a series of films made in the seventies that pitted a lone, contemplative woman against her own middle-aged regrets, this is not the standout of its type, it doesn’t have the acerbic humour or depth of An Unmarried Woman, and has a number of elements that don’t quite add up, from the attachment to her pastoral youthful memories to a rather incongruous dream sequence that she experiences while watching Bergman’s Wild Strawberries. Director Gilbert Cates fared better with a character-based chamber piece three years earlier in I Never Sang For My Father, here the script isn’t as strong, but what it does have going in its favour is exceptional performances. Woodward’s brilliant subtlety pairs beautifully with Balsam’s intelligent bluster, while Sidney, despite only being in about twenty minutes of the film, steals the operation right from under them with her unforgettable, instantaneous dazzle.