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Excellent ensemble acting with an intelligent script
War starts, the New Zealand men go off to fight, and four sisters are left to cope with that- and the arrival of the American fleet! It sounds like a recipe for the most hackneyed sort of wartime romance weepie, but this film is certainly not that.
First, this is an ensemble movie, where no one 'star' dominates. From Paul Newman (probably the best-remembered name now) on, we are given a whole clutch of accomplished and finely nuanced performances.
The cinematography is superbly judged: this is one of those lovingly observed pictures where a shot of 'two people talking' is rarely just that; the backgrounds and choice of shots are a delight. This must be viewed in the original format, not 'scanned'!
The script is intelligent and daring. Sexual topics such as promiscuity and having children outside marriage are dealt with in a surprisingly straightforward and sophisticated manner for a 1950s movie. And, it must be said, they are dealt with in a human and sympathetic fashion. There is no hint of the lurid sensationalism nor of the tight-arsed repressiveness that films of this era often display when dealing with such subject matter.
In a situation where the old well-patterned expectations have gone by the board, the sisters attempt to keep track of their universe with a wall-map of the world on which they plot where their men are now. The scope of this exercise is enlarged to include the dead, and then American 'friends'. Ultimately, the map is screwed up and thrown on the fire as the old world- including the old moral universe- goes up in smoke.
The only jarring note is the plot device allowing the film to open and close with a murder trial. One of the sisters has married a 'local'- clearly marked as unsuitable by his working class tones and chest hair! The relationship ends in worse than tears. This element of the film has all the sophistication of an Enid Blyton 'Famous Five' childrens book, and sits uneasily in such an- otherwise- intelligent performance!
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