A Soldier's Daughter Never Cries

Adapted from Kaylie Jones' semi-autobiographical novel (her father, James Jones, wrote From Here to Eternity and The Thin Red Line), this elegiac, tonally diverse but not entirely successful piece is nonetheless a delightful aberration from the Merchant-Ivory team. The painterly sequence of shots that open the film, languidly framing a beautiful, pregnant...read more

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Reviewed by Sandra Contreras
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Adapted from Kaylie Jones' semi-autobiographical novel (her father, James Jones, wrote From Here to Eternity and The Thin Red Line), this elegiac, tonally diverse but not entirely successful piece is nonetheless a delightful aberration

from the Merchant-Ivory team. The painterly sequence of shots that open the film, languidly framing a beautiful, pregnant young French woman (Virginie Ledoyen) as she loafs and writes in her journal at a beach house, could easily come from a contemporary French drama. Flash-forward to a few years

later, and we're sucked into chez Willis, where the woman's child, Benoit, is being adopted by Bill and Marcella Willis (Kris Kristofferson, Barbara Hershey). He's a successful, blustery, American war novelist; she's fun-loving (read: boozy), and they live in 1960s Paris with their young

daughter Channe (Leelee Sobieski). The spoiled Channe resents Benoit, who demonstrates his desire to become as American as his new family by renaming himself Billy, and basks in the stifling affections of Channe's Portuguese nanny, Candida (Dominique Blanc), which later becomes a problem. As the

children grow up, it is apparent that they will always be outsiders, whether they are in Paris or the States, where they move when Bill's health begins to fail. Channe's deep friendship with the fey, opera-obsessed Francis (Anthony Roth Costanzo) forms a particularly confusing but satisfying part

of the story. The sensitive Sobieski is exceptional in the central role, prickling with sexual curiosity, ambivalence and guilt. James Ivory's direction is meandering in the best sense: Rarely obvious or predictable, he quietly builds a complex portrait of a intimate family.

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