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Jack Cardiff received a 1960 Oscar Nomination as Best Director for this lush, engaging film starring Trevor Howard, Dean Stockwell and Donald Pleasence, which was adapted from D.H. Lawrence's classic novel. A young man with artistic talent who lives in a close-knit, English coal-mining town during the early 20th Century finds himself inhibited by his emotionally manipulative, domineering mother. Written by
Freddie Francis's cinematography is in some ways the star. It is not showy or intrusive. It's totally organic to the unfolding of the plot. Yet it is exquisite -- both with landscapes and with actors. This is especially true with Trevor Howard, very powerful as a boozy miner.
The other star is that great actress Wendy Hiller. Her role is far from entirely sympathetic. She suffocates her favorite son, well played by Dean Stockwell. She is demanding in a quiet way and selfish in a manner passing itself off as martyrdom. But what a gorgeous performance! Mary Ure was a fine actress. Somehow, though, the character she plays doesn't entirely work in my view. It seems more from kitchen-sink realism, like the Shelagh Delaney plays that were filmed around this time. (And where have they gone? Why don't we ever see "A Taste of Honey" or "The Leather Boys" anymore?) Heather Sears is good but I have to admit, to my embarrassment, I found it hard to shake her excellent performance in the tile role of "The Story of Esther Costello" from my mind. Her being a bright young woman taken with Stockwell, therefore, startled me throughout. That is my own failing and surely not hers.
This is a superb movie. All of it is good. But for me, the scenes involving Hiller are the most compelling. Howard, too, is superb. And Stockwell as Paul. The family story is heart-wrenching.
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