Starring-Sarah Miles, Robert Mitchum
Scott’s Review #10
Reviewed June 17, 2014
Ryan’s Daughter is a sweeping epic from the masterful director, David Lean (Lawrence of Arabia, A Passage to India, Doctor Zhivago). The film is sprawling and filled with fabulous locales of oceanic Ireland. In fact, much of the action takes place using exterior scenes and this is arguably as prominent and important to the film as the story is.
Set in WWI era Ireland, one will immediately notice the gorgeous Irish landscapes and the brilliant photography involved. This gives the film a timeless look, and one can simply escape into the scenery itself, forgetting the story, and dream away through the roaring waves. The intense “storm scene” is second to none as Lean had to wait over a year to film this pivotal scene- and Mother nature had to cooperate.
The story is twofold: a love story involving a woman torn between her schoolteacher husband and a strapping, yet English (at this time there was no love lost between the Irish and English), officer. Rosy (Sarah Miles) is headstrong yet kindhearted, the daughter of a local, prominent man. Her husband, Charles (Robert Mitchum) is dutiful and loyal to a fault. After Rosy’s affair with the British officer, she is deemed a tyrant by the townspeople, as her husband chooses to stand by her side.
The second story is of a political nature. A feeling of extreme nationalism exists among the townspeople against the British. Both stories blend nicely as small-town gossip and a subsequent witch hunt come into play. The village idiot is played brilliantly by John Mills, who won an Academy Award for his efforts.
Character-driven is the story’s main appeal and the audience will surely feel perplexed or confused about whom to root for or feel empathy for- I know I did. In fact, at different times one’s loyalties can fluctuate or be challenged.
The film is reminiscent of Doctor Zhivago to me as romance and politics intertwine and a dilemma involving the central female characters are similar. At over three hours in length, the film does not drag and remains interesting throughout as the conflict and drama reach a crescendo during the final act. At no time is there any filler or unnecessary scenes, which, in itself is a positive.
Sadly, Ryan’s Daughter is not considered as worthy as other aforementioned David Lean efforts, but I disagree with this- the film ages exceptionally well- like a fine wine. This film also focuses largely on a female character and, therefore, is female-driven, a wonderful aspect in the film, circa 1970.
Oscar Nominations: Best Actress-Sarah Miles, Best Supporting Actor-John Mills (won), Best Sound, Best Cinematography (won)