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Drama - Romantic

The French Lieutenant’s Woman (1981)

Duration2h 04m
RatingsUK: AA, USA: R, Spain: 13 
Source of storyA book of the same name by John Fowles.
DirectorKarel Reisz
Writers/ScriptHarold Pinter
StarringMeryl Streep, Jeremy Irons, Lynsey Baxter, Peter Vaughan, Colin Jeavons, Liz Smith, Leo McKern, Arabella Weir, Richard Griffiths, David Warner, Alun Armstrong, Penelope Wilton, 
RatingsIMDb: 6.9/10 by 13,593 people .  Rotten Tomatoes: 82% by 28 reviewers. Review2view: 5/10.

Elevator Pitch: The film portrays a modern film crew making a movie about a 19th century romance in Lyme Regis. In the story, eligible bachelor Charles Smithson spends time in Lyme Regis fossil hunting and spending time with his fiancée Ernestina. However he meets and falls for Sarah, a woman of doubtful reputation eventually terminating his engagement with Ernestina. But before his romance with Sarah has gone anywhere she disappears, leaving him with a search which goes on for some years. Meanwhile, in the present day the actors who portray Sarah and Charles are also conducting an affair despite both being married. 

Content: No actual sex or nudity, although it is implied to have taken place. There is one scene at the very beginning of the film where we see Sarah being filmed as she walks towards the Cobb, the Lyme Regis’s medieval breakwater. Otherwise we see Charles at work looking for fossils, and later examining some. The main street of the town is portrayed. Charles and Sarah meet and are attracted. He also meets Ernestina and despite their relationship, they remain very formal. Charles’s manservant follows him to see what he is up to and threatens blackmail. A lot of time is spent on the Lyme Regis undercliff, an area where lovers meet, and appears to have bad reputation. There are scenes of the wrap party.

A View: I had purchased the DVD of this film when on a visit to Lyme Regis. My wife and I stayed in the Royal Lion Hotel visible on screen, reputedly where King Edward VII took his girlfriends. But it has remained on our shelves for years until, due to the phone lines being down, we dusted it off and watched it  In the end I did not enjoy it much because I felt that Meryl Streep portrayed Sarah rather unattractively. Perhaps she was trying too hard to be “English”, but my wife liked it more than I did. So maybe a watch while you’re doing you knitting.

A couple of Meryl Streep films reviewed on this site which I liked better: The Manchurian Candidate, Florence Foster Jenkins.

About Victor R Gibson

Author of this site three technical books and two novels


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