29 July 2001 | Geofbob
Schlesinger's masterful tale of two cultures
This is a beautifully judged and paced 1979 film by John Schlesinger, which explores wartime romance and a unique culture clash, with sensitivity, wit and an affectionate eye for the period in which it is set. The time, 1943/4; the place, a small town in the north of England; the parties, the US Army gathering for the invasion of mainland Europe, and the locals grateful for the military assistance but watchful for the virtue of their wives and daughters.
Richard Gere's Sergeant-Cook, Matt, is surely still one of his best and certainly most sympathetic roles. His love affair with shopkeeper's daughter Jean (Lisa Eichhorn) - together with another on/off romance further up the social scale between William Devane's Captain and Vanessa Redgrave's upper class lady - highlight the painful choice between love and loyalty which war often presents. Meanwhile, the sunnier, trouble-free pairing and marriage of boxer Danny (Chick Vennera) and happy-go-lucky Mollie (Wendy Morgan) demonstrates that war can offer fresh starts as well as tragic ends.
Though Schlesinger bases most of the film on the moral (and cinematic) values of the time in which it is set, he reminds us in one sequence of the segregation and race problems in the US Army, which would not be resolved until after the war (and of wider race problems in the US generally, which are still not resolved). Rightly, the movie makes no attempt to avoid emotion; and the ending with the troops, including Matt, Danny and the Captain, moving south to an uncertain future with the invasion force is genuinely moving.