Movie Monday: Sons and Lovers 1960
Just when I thought I had depleted Netflix's selection of great classic films, I stumbled on this beautiful gem of a movie, Sons and Lovers from 1960. I didn't think I recognized any of the actors*, but the movie had great reviews, and had won lots of awards in 1961. So I gave it a shot, and I'm so glad I did!
Sons and Lovers is a UK film from my favorite decade in British offerings of cinematography and screenplays. Just as expected from this genre, the screenplay was engaging and meaningful, the subject just a little daring for the time, and each pan of the camera was like a beautiful moving photograph.
Set in the early 20th century, this simple story takes place in a sleepy English mining town, where progressive thinkers like Walter Morel were quite the rarity. While his father and brother worked in the dangerous coal mines, young Walter was encouraged by his affectionate mother to foster his creative talents, and to not settle down with any of the local towngirls who just weren't women enough to eclipse her place in Walter's heart. His mother's own life was a disapointment to her, and Walter loved and pitied her too much to leave her to pursue his own dreams. So off he goes searching for love and the meaning of life with different women, all the while seeking approval from his mother most of all.
While reading about this film, I discovered it was based on a book by the same name. Much like East of Eden, the book and the movie vary especially due to the fact that the movie versions focus more on the younger generation, and their love lives. I didn't miss the whole family history that one could discover from reading the book Sons and Lovers, and as a simple movie viewer who knew nothing of the book, I was able to piece together information about each character's background, based on clues told on the actors' faces and their interactions with eachother. It's not too difficult to speculate what their past must have been like, but it was mysterious enough to give another layer of depth to the storyline.
I read some reviews that remark on the movie's falling short of D.H. Lawrence's novel, which isn't surprising considering its 1 hour 42 minutes run-time. Everyone knows you can't fit the meat of a novel into the timeframe of a movie. And this one seems to have done a good job at focusing on one aspect of the story, and really drawing in the viewer. And judging by Sons and Lovers' awards sweep in 1961, apparently the Academy agreed with me.
*I did recognize Walter's mother (seen in image two, looking towards the sky) immediately as Wendy Hiller, an actress I enjoyed in Murder on the Orient Express, and came to adore in my childhood favorite, Anne of Green Gables, as Diana Barry's feared Great Aunt.