“I was much too far out all my life / And not waving, but drowning.”
British poet Stevie Smith (Glenda Jackson) discusses her childhood, her literary fame, her failed romance, and life with her beloved maiden aunt (Mona Washbourne).
Genres, Themes, Actors, and Directors:
- Flashback Films
- Glenda Jackson Films
- Play Adaptations
- Trevor Howard Films
Response to Peary’s Review:
Peary’s review of this theatrical adaptation is humorously tongue-in-cheek: he begins by noting that it is “one of those films people like to recommend to show they have good taste — [but] not me,” and admits that he “blanked out” after ten minutes. Interestingly enough, I had the opposite reaction — it took me about ten minutes to get into the rhythm of the movie, and then (almost despite myself) I was hooked. I knew nothing at all about Stevie Smith before renting this movie — indeed, I hadn’t even heard of her — but quickly became interested in both her work and her life, primarily due to Jackson’s skillfully nuanced performance.
She utilizes a series of self-conscious vocal modulations and subtle facial gestures (such as nose sniffs and tongue-against-teeth movements) to portray Stevie’s unique mixture of humility, melancholy, and quietly adventurous spirit — and while she talks far too much, her performance never falters. Unfortunately, not every aspect of the film works: the flashbacks to Stevie’s childhood seem out of place; the script is far too stagy; and the strange role of Smith’s friend “The Man” (played by Trevor Howard) should have been cut altogether.
Monologic plays ultimately work better on the small screen — I was reminded, for instance, of Eileen Atkins one-woman portrait of Virginia Woolf in A Room of One’s Own (1990). With that said, however, fans of this type of movie will doubtless enjoy it, and should seek it out.
Redeeming Qualities and Moments:
- Glenda Jackson’s unglamorous portrayal of Stevie Smith
- Mona Washbourne’s delightfully witty performance as Stevie’s spinster aunt
No, unless you’re a fan of either Stevie Smith, Glenda Jackson, or one-woman shows.