The French Lieutenant's Woman is one of the most civilized and provocative movies of the year, but it falls just short of greatness. Perhaps Reisz and Pinter are too innately reticent to wring the last drop of emotional power from Fowles's story. [21 Sep 1981, p.96]
Aesthetically beautiful and superbly acted, a sure sign of things to come from the leads.
Gary ArnoldWashington Post
Sufficiently attractive and absorbing to sustain the fond delusion that Charles' pursuit of the mystifying Sarah might culminate in a revealing, conclusive confrontation. [02 Oct 1981, p.C1]
Pauline KaelThe New Yorker
Meryl Streep gives an immaculate, technically accomplished performance as Sarah Woodruff, the romantic mystery woman of John Fowles' novel, but she isn't mysterious. We're not fascinated by Sarah; she's so distanced from us that all we can do is observe how meticulous Streep -- and everything else about the movie -- is.
A rather poetic costume drama jarringly interrupted by bits of modern banality. [02 Oct 1981, p.17]
Jay ScottThe Globe and Mail (Toronto)
Two great beginnings disappoint in the end. If the novel is a dying form, film treatments are the poison. [21 Sep 1981]