“Something that’s measured is never lost — you know that, don’t you?”
A fatherless girl named Jesse (Susan McClung) goes to live with her cousins in Pennsylvania Amish country, and learns that the local townsfolk believe her beloved uncle (Rip Torn) is mentally disturbed.
Genres, Themes, Actors, and Directors:
- Coming of Age
- Eddie Albert Films
- Mental Illness
- Rip Torn Films
- Small Town America
Birch Interval (the film’s odd title is never explained) received scathing reviews from the New York Times upon its release, with director Delbert Mann lambasted for wallowing in “excess, self-indulgence and bathos”, and the film as a whole labeled “what the word ‘icky’ has been waiting for all its life.” These criticisms are ultimately far too harsh, however: while it does dip into a made-for-TV sensibility at times, and the overall arc of the narrative flits around rather unevenly to various vignettes (a local “witch”, a near-rape) without giving them their due, Mann’s overall intention — telling a coming-of-age story, with all its inevitable stickiness and melodrama — remains a worthy one. Especially enjoyable are Rip Torn and Eddie Albert, who turn in fine performances as Jesse’s disturbed uncle and concerned great-uncle respectively; and Mann’s nearly ethnographic filming of the local Amish community (particularly a church session), which was likely fascinating for audiences at the time.
Redeeming Qualities and Moments:
- Rip Torn as Jesse’s Uncle Thomas
- Eddie Albert as “Pa”
- A documentary-like glimpse at a Pennsylvania Amish community
No, but fans of coming-of-age tales will likely be curious to check it out. Listed as a Sleeper in the back of Peary’s book.