“I have set myself beyond the pale. I am nothing. I am hardly human any more.”
In a film set in 19th century England, a biologist (Jeremy Irons) engaged to an upstanding young woman (Lynsey Baxter) falls in love with a mysterious “fallen woman” (Meryl Streep). Meanwhile, the actors (Jeremy Irons and Meryl Streep) playing the leads carry on an affair during the film’s shooting.
Genres, Themes, Actors, and Directors:
- Actors and Actresses
- Historical Drama
- Meryl Streep Films
- Morality Police
- Obsessive Love
Meryl Streep is nothing short of extraordinary in this film version of John Fowles’ The French Lieutenant’s Woman. As both the titular heroine and the modern-day actress (Sarah) playing her, Streep astonishes us with her ability to completely immerse herself in dual roles. Yet it’s Anna — the “French lieutenant’s woman” — who ultimately captures our interest most keenly; she’s far more complex — and intriguing — than one would have imagined. Jeremy Irons, with his perennially concerned expression, is appropriately cast as Anna’s forlorn suitor, and the supporting cast members are all effective as well — but it’s Streep we’re really watching and waiting for.
Playwright Harold Pinter wrote the film’s screenplay, adding the parallel love story set in modern times in an attempt to provide a latter-day commentary. While it’s ultimately unnecessary, it never detracts from the power of the primary story, and remains a clever narrative device. Yet it’s the historical drama which holds the most interest, as we anxiously await the outcome of Irons’ doomed attraction. Fortunately, we’re rewarded for our patience: the plot takes unexpected twists and turns, and, like any good romantic mystery, makes us question what’s come before.
Redeeming Qualities and Moments:
- Meryl Streep’s wonderful performance(s)
- Jeremy Irons as the fatally love-struck Charles
- Beautifully evoked period detail
- Effective use of natural settings to convey the turmoil of Charles and Sara’s burgeoning romance
Yes, for Streep’s standout performance
- Noteworthy Performance(s)
- Oscar Winner or Nominee