In the early 1960s there were several movies that put a teen-aged girl into a moral dilemma that was difficult even for people three times her age. But the performances of Jill Haworth in "Exodus," Hayley Mills in "The Chalk Garden" and Merrie Spaeth and Tippy Walker in "The World of Henry Orient" are overshadowed by that of Susannah York in "The Greengage Summer" (1961).
York plays a responsible person who falls in love with a criminal -- a professional thief, played by Kenneth More, who finds her very attractive. She is sixteen, he is in his 40s. Without parents for the summe, she is in charge of her younger siblings; he is single and carefree. But there is no seduction here, from either party.
Susannah York's Joss trembles and blushes as someone ready to throw pride and morality to the wind in the name of love. Kenneth More's Eliot, initially a copy of Charles Boyer's Pepe in "Algiers" (1940), becomes genuinely awkward as he tries to understand her exuberance, and as he rediscovers a pre-criminal sense of honor within himself. The relationship of these two unlikely lovers is erotic, but without the smutty sex we now expect from such cinematic situations, and without the sermonizing or soft-focus slow motion that became fashionable for awhile a few years after this movie and those with a similar theme.
Realistic dialogue and lush background scenes are juxtaposed against embarrassing and unspoken emotions, making this film a haunting exposition.
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