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The French Lieutenant's Woman (1981)

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A film is being made of a story, set in 19th century England, about Charles, a biologist who's engaged to be married, but who falls in love with outcast Sarah, whose melancholy makes her ... See full summary »



(novel), (screenplay)
Nominated for 5 Oscars. Another 9 wins & 14 nominations. See more awards »



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Cast overview, first billed only:
Hilton McRae ...
Emily Morgan ...
Charlotte Mitchell ...
Mrs. Tranter
Lynsey Baxter ...
Jean Faulds ...
Mr. Freeman
Liz Smith ...
Mrs. Fairley
Patience Collier ...
Mrs. Poulteney
John Barrett ...
Dr. Grogan
Arabella Weir ...
Girl on Undercliff
Ben Forster ...
Boy on Undercliff


A film is being made of a story, set in 19th century England, about Charles, a biologist who's engaged to be married, but who falls in love with outcast Sarah, whose melancholy makes her leave him after a short, but passionate affair. Anna and Mike, who play the characters of Sarah and Charles, go, during the shooting of the film, through a relationship that runs parallel to that of their characters. Written by Leon Wolters <wolters@strw.LeidenUniv.nl>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


She was lost from the moment she saw him.


Drama | Romance


R | See all certifications »




Release Date:

16 October 1981 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

La amante del teniente francés  »

Company Credits

Production Co:

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Technical Specs


Sound Mix:


Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
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Did You Know?


Source novelist John Fowles had not been happy with the filmed versions of his two earlier novels "The Collector" (1963) and "The Magus" (1965) [See: The Collector (1965) and The Magus (1968)]. Both of these earlier works had previously been filmed prior to the publishing of Fowles' third novel "The French Lieutenant's Woman" (1969). So Fowles insisted on selecting the director of The French Lieutenant's Woman (1981) and his first choice, Karel Reisz, became the movie's director. See more »


While at the house in the Lake District, the reaction to Sarah being pushed to the ground by Charles is genuine; Meryl actually hits her head on the floor & when Jeremy acknowledges; she nods, giggles & reorients herself in position next to him. See more »


[describing how she became the French Lieutenant's mistress]
Sarah: Soon he no longer bothered to hide the nature of his intensions towards me. Nor could I pretend surprise. My innocence was false from the moment I chose to stay. I could tell you that he overpowered me, he drugged me. But it was not so... I gave myself to him.
See more »


Referenced in Z Channel: A Magnificent Obsession (2004) See more »


Prelude in C minor
Written by Johann Sebastian Bach
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Frequently Asked Questions

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User Reviews

A wonderful movie
31 July 1999 | by (california) – See all my reviews

This film is visually fascinating as well as dramatically satisfying. Every camera shot is breathtaking - this includes both stories.

The script is brilliant. I thoroughly enjoyed the post-modernist self-awareness - the blurred line between one reality and the other calls the entire experience into question. But I knew I was watching modern actors playing in a period piece and I was still caught up in the story, both stories - which mirror each other and make you wonder which character is influencing which performance. Irons gets to play two obsessive roles, something he seems to be really good at. Streep is enthralling and brings a third dimension to two enigmatic roles perfectly suited for her.

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