15 November 2010 | mjneu59
austere wartime drama with a strong cast
Two elderly, overprotective sisters in wartime Liverpool are caught in the flux of uncertain times in this subdued but potent drama, adapted from a novel by Beryl Bainbridge. Billie Whitelaw is the more lively and outgoing Margo, while the stern and taciturn Nellie (Joan Plowright) mourns the erosion of traditional values since the onset of the war. In between them is their orphaned teenage niece, a sheltered, plain-looking girl whose naive attachment to an undeserving American GI leads to unexpected tragedy. The outline suggests a more or less routine coming-of-age melodrama, but the relationship between the two elder sisters is more compelling than the troubled teen romance, if only because the role of Wesley (the American soldier) is less a flesh and blood character than a symbol of anti-Yankee sentiment. Director Jim O'Brien paints a convincing portrait of working class England but otherwise keeps a low profile, letting his actors carry the film (a wise decision, with this cast) and maintaining a not incompatible mood of repressed sexual tension and bittersweet nostalgia (more bitter than sweet).