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Esther goes into service in Victorian England, only to be seduced by the sweet talking groom William, who then takes off with his employer's daughter. Left alone to bring up the child, Esther manages and after 7 years has a chance at happiness. Then William turns up again... Written by
Gillian Richards <firstname.lastname@example.org>
I have always been fond of the British costume dramas and melodramas of the immediate post-war period, but this is a decidedly lacklustre example of the breed. Rank had undertaken an ambitious production schedule but was sorely lacking in talented and experienced directors; nor did Dirk Bogarde have the experience to carry the male lead, a role crying out for the likes of Stewart Granger, who apparently turned it down.
Opportunities are missed in the early scenes in the Barfield country house, with those in the middle of the picture, depicting poor Esther having her child in the workhouse, her encounter with the sinister baby farmer, and the slave labour conditions of her work as a domestic servant, being considerably more resonant. Then, around the time of the introduction of Cyril Cusack as a rather wet lay preacher, it all starts to go down hill. Though evident that a great deal of time, expense, and attention to detail was expended on the racing scenes toward the end, the prolonged business with Bogarde's gambling cronies struck me as monumentally tedious. Kathleen Ryan as Esther is one of the few saving graces and, according to Bogarde, she gave him a silver brandy flask after shooting was over, engraved with 'To hell with Esther Waters!' I had a similar sentiment.
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