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Barbara Vining is 17 years old and living with her family in a 1950s postwar English village. Her father, Henry, is a newspaper journalist and mother, Vi, a homemaker; her maiden aunt, Evelyn also lives in their home. Barbara attends a coeducational comprehensive school. And, for the first time in her life, Barbara is in love. The object of her affection is a sensitive and handsome gentleman, Stephen Barlow, who teaches Latin to the graduating class at her school. Barlow is an Englishman, married to a beautiful, but very insecure and lonely American lady, Kay. Barbara disappears after a tutoring session at the Barlow home and is "in absentia" for three days. During that time, Barlow is asked to resign and nearly cautioned by the police, as rumors have run amok throughout the village. Many people, including his wife, are uncertain regarding what to think. Was it simply a case of unrequited love or did Stephen Barlow have a torrid affair with young Barbara? Is she dead by her own hand, ... Written by
You can't really call it a noir because it's not like the characters here are unsympathetic, nor can you call it a crime drama because it's not clear until the end whether or not any crime has even taken place.
The film revolves around Stephen Barlow (Leo Genn), who teaches Latin to teen-aged girls at the nearby school. 17 year old Barbara Vining (Glynis Johns) is a student in the school with a major league crush on the rather bland Barlow who appears as a cultured and even rather mysterious man of the world in her young eyes. Barlow's wife, Kay (Gene Tierney), is for some reason jealous of the girl and suspicious of the entire relationship. One night, when Barbara is at their home studying Latin with Stephen, Kay waits until she and Barbara are alone and confronts the girl about her feelings for Stephen. Barbara flees from the house understandably humiliated about the subject of their conversation. Stephen, angry with his wife for embarrassing Barbara, runs out after the girl to try to put things right.
That would be the end of it except that Barbara Vining does not return home that night nor the next day, and her parents contact the police and initiate a search. Tongues in the small town begin to wag about the fact that this 30-something schoolmaster was walking about in the middle of the night with his teen-aged student. Barbara's father is a newspaper reporter and, having seen murderers who are quite calm after the passion of the crime is over throughout his career, does not have his fears allayed by seeing Stephen's composed and civilized demeanor. Even Stephen's own wife has her doubts when she catches Stephen in a lie relating to that night's events. Add to all of this that some male obscene caller keeps phoning the Barlow home - did he kill or abduct the girl himself and is he tormenting this very public suspect?.
Plus, one of the creepiest persons ever committed to celluloid is Barbara's own aunt. Now about 40, she is morbidly consumed with a love affair that ended disastrously for her some twenty years before and seems almost elated that history might have repeated itself for her niece. Neither Rebecca's Mrs. Danvers nor Uncle Fester have anything on Aunt Vi Vining in the way of weirdness.
This movie is more about character development than action, but it is by no means boring and should keep you engaged if not on the edge of your seat throughout. One strange thing about the casting - Gene Tierney is playing a woman about her own age at the time - 33. However, Glynis Johns is playing a teen aged girl when she was less than three years younger than Ms. Tierney. However, both carry out their roles quite convincingly.
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