Friday, February 23, 2024

Teacher O'Zhivago

Robert Mitchum was TCM's Star of the Month in January, and one of his movies that I recorded not having seen it before was Ryan's Daughter. It's on TCM again during 31 Days of Oscar since it got multiple nominations. That airing comes up overnight tonight at 1:45 AM (or early tomorrow depending upon your perspective and time zone), so I made a point to watch in order to to a review in conjunction with the upcoming showing.

The movie starts off with a woman walking along a beach somewhere in the west of Ireland. That woman, Rosy Ryan (Sarah Miles), is the daughter of the local publican, Tom Ryan (Leo McKern). At the pub, we learn that it's around 1917, which would be the later stages of World War I, but before American involvement really turned the tide of war. Also, 1917 was just after the Eastern Uprising in Ireland. Ireland was still a part of the United Kingdom at the time, but a lot of people on the island wanted independence from Britain, while UK soldiers are also stationed on the island.

Returning from a visit to London is the local teacher, Charles Shaughnessy (Robert Mitchum). The first thing he does is go to the cemetery to visit the grave of his dearly departed wife. It's been a couple of years since Charles became a widower and it might be time for him to start thinking about finding another wife. Meanwhile, Rosy wants any sort of romance, just so she can get the heck out of this dead-end of a village, and when she meets Charles, she allows herself to be swept off her feet, even though for him, it's more a matter of practicality. When Rosy discovers that marriage isn't all it's cracked up to be, it leaves her rather disillusioned.

There's still another main character who has yet to be introduced: Major Doryan (Christopher Jones). He's obviously in the British Army, and served with quite some distinction on the front over in France. However, his service resulted in several injuries. One is a leg injury that's left him with a limp. More seriously, however, is a case of shell shock, which is part of why he's being sent to a backwater like this. However, he's a soldier in a uniform, and that's enough for Rosy. As you can guess, the two begin an affair.

But Doryan is English and Rosy is Irish. And this village is one of those places where the locals largely support independence from Britain, so they've been working to try to make life difficult for the British troops stationed there. At the same time, support isn't unanimous as they've got an informant in their midst. So when they try to run munitions, the British are going to find out, which is going to lead to disastrous consequences.

And then Charles is going to figure out that Rosy has been having an affair with Doryan. That also is going to have terrible consequences. Not only is Charles going to be unhappy, but the locals come to the logical conclusion that perhaps Rosy was the one informing on them to Doryan. After all, she was sleeping with the guy.

Ryan's Daughter was panned by critics at the time of its release, and it's not hard to see why. The movie runs 200 minutes, and its an incredibly slow 200 minutes at that. It's more of an intimate story than an epic, which doesn't have to be a bad thing. But here, the movie kept reminding me of Doctor Zhivago, a movie of which I'm not a fan to say the least. Part of that is the direction by David Lean, and part is the overbearing score by Maurice Jarre, who collaborated on Doctor Zhivago. While Lean made some great movies, his direction here is plodding.

As I said, Ryan's Daughter got multiple Oscar nominations, and won two. One was for the cinematography, which is the high point of the movie, and certainly Oscar-worthy, although I haven't seen all of the nominated movies to compare. The other one was for John Mills as Best Supporting Actor. He plays a character who's half Barry Fitzgerald from The Quiet Man -- the Quirky Villager who helps move the plot along at a few key times. The other half, however, is Nick Cravat, a Mills' character is for no explicable reason a mute. Either way, the character is obnoxious.

So as you can tell, I didn't particularly care for Ryan's Daughter. But as always, judge for yourself.

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