Sophie’s Choice (1982)

Sophie’s Choice (1982)

“Tell me why you inhabit the land of the living.”

While living in Brooklyn, an aspiring young Southern writer (Peter MacNicol) befriends a guilt-ridden, Polish-Catholic survivor of Auschwitz (Meryl Streep) and her charismatic yet volatile Jewish lover (Kevin Kline), and soon finds himself falling for Sophie (Streep).

Genres, Themes, Actors, and Directors:

  • Alan J. Pakula Films
  • Concentration Camps
  • Flashback Films
  • Meryl Streep Films
  • World War Two
  • Writers

Response to Peary’s Review:
Peary writes that writer-director Alan J. Pakula’s adaptation of William Styron’s novel “has many powerful scenes, particularly those in the concentration camp”:

… but he argues that while “Streep gives a great characterization,” it’s “difficult to forget she’s acting and that her Polish accent is not real because Sophie is constantly struggling with the English language, stumbling over every other word.” He notes that “MacNicol’s timid, nervous portrayal complements the more demonstrative performances of his co-stars”:

… and points out that the film is “beautifully photographed by Nestor Almendros.” He posits an interesting if implausible theory about the film’s titular topic (“Sophie’s choice”):


… by questioning whether Sophie’s flashbacks are “accurate or only what she makes up for Stingo [MacNicol].” He wonders, “Could it be that she had no daughter and that she chose to save herself rather than her son? If he was taken away to be killed (she says he was taken to the children’s camp, not directly to the gas chambers), this would explain why she didn’t remain in Europe to search for him or get some confirmation of his death.” He does concede, “It’s doubtful that Styron or Pakula intended anyone to make this interpretation, but the structure of the film and portrayal of Sophie make it a possibility.”

Peary’s proposition is intriguing yet not particularly convincing; indeed, it seems to serve as simply yet another way to deny the incomprehensible inhumanity at play in the Nazi regime, when the whim of an officer could determine the fate of an entire family within seconds. I also disagree with Peary’s somewhat dismissive assessment of Streep, who rightfully won an Oscar for her portrayal as a multi-lingual, highly traumatized victim of war crimes attempting to find a way — and a reason — to survive. Meanwhile, Kline’s character is instantly insufferable:

… but we quickly learn why this needs to be the case, and as hard as he is to watch, he suits the storyline perfectly.

Redeeming Qualities and Moments:

  • Meryl Streep as Sophie
  • Nestor Almendros’ cinematography

Must See?
Yes, for Streep’s performance.


  • Noteworthy Performance(s)
  • Oscar Winner or Nominee


One thought on “Sophie’s Choice (1982)

  1. Agreed; a once-must for Streep’s performance (~ and I’m in agreement with what’s said about Kline’s character / performance).

    I’ve seen the film twice. Streep is remarkable but I think twice is my limit in this case.

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