“Don’t you see I’d be turning my back on everything I’ve ever known?”
Genres, Themes, Actors, and Directors:
Wyman and Hudson’s romance in ATHA is never exactly believable; while we can understand why Wyman — a lonely widow — would go gaga over hunky Hudson, the opposite motivation simply isn’t there. We never get a sense of why, exactly, the free-spirited Hudson (who has no desire at all to tap into either Wyman’s money or social set) feels Wyman is suitable as his new soulmate. Such quibbles must ultimately be set aside, however, given that this is squarely meant to be a women’s picture — a film designed precisely to appeal to those [females] who could relate to Wyman’s predicament (as a lonely housewife and mother) in some form or another. Hudson’s character suits Wyman’s needs perfectly, and thus — he exists. Meanwhile, the competing forces in Wyman’s life — ranging from her claustrophobically judgmental social circle, to her priggish grown children — are over-the-top yet believable at their core.
What really makes this and other key Sirk films so memorable, however, is their unique, consistently stunning visual style. Vibrant colors are used to strategic effect here to convey characters’ increasingly intense emotions, with nearly every shot perfectly designed and framed to convey a certain sensibility. Check out the bottom still below, for instance, in which Wyman’s face is highlighted in the screen of the television set her children have purchased for her as a “companion” — she’s surrounded on either side by the salesmen who have eagerly set it up for her, but her forlorn expression is undeniable. Much schmaltzier are the images framing Wyman’s final encounters with Hudson (that deer!), which definitely shift the film into high melodrama — but by this point we’re invested enough in Wyman’s happiness that we simply accept what Sirk offers up to us, schmaltz and all.
Redeeming Qualities and Moments:
(Listed in 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die)