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The Return of the Soldier (1982)

PG  |   |  Drama  |  14 February 1985 (USA)
6.9
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Ratings: 6.9/10 from 300 users  
Reviews: 13 user | 3 critic

Kitty Baldry (Julie Chirstie) is a haughty society queen with a tunneled view of life. Kitty's complacency is rocked when her husband, Captain Chris Baldry (Alan Bates), returns from the ... See full summary »

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Title: The Return of the Soldier (1982)

The Return of the Soldier (1982) on IMDb 6.9/10

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Nominated for 1 BAFTA Film Award. Another 1 nomination. See more awards »
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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
...
...
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Jenny Baldry
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Doctor Anderson
...
William Grey
...
Frank
Hilary Mason ...
Ward
John Sharp ...
Pearson
Elizabeth Edmonds ...
Emery
Valerie Whittington ...
Beatrice
Patsy Byrne ...
Mrs. Plummer
Amanda Grinling ...
Alexandra
Edward de Souza ...
Edward
...
Stephen
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Storyline

Kitty Baldry (Julie Chirstie) is a haughty society queen with a tunneled view of life. Kitty's complacency is rocked when her husband, Captain Chris Baldry (Alan Bates), returns from the front during the First World War shell-shocked and suffering amnesia, not knowing who she is and determined for a reunion with Margaret Grey (Glenda Jackson), a working class lover from his past. Kitty employs psychiatrist Dr. Gilbert Anderson (Ian Holm), to help unscramble her husband's feelings for the women in his new disoriented life including his all-too caring cousin Jenny (Ann-Margret), but ultimately comes to realize that the man she knew is unreachable, as dead as the past he pines for. Written by alfiehitchie

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Genres:

Drama

Motion Picture Rating (MPAA)

Rated PG for some violent images and language | See all certifications »
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Release Date:

14 February 1985 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

A katona hazatér  »

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(Technicolor)
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Trivia

"The Return of the Soldier" (1918) was the first novel written by source novelist Rebecca West. See more »

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User Reviews

A magnificent, sad, moving film about a soldier's return from World War One
12 October 2011 | by (United Kingdom) – See all my reviews

Everything about this film is brilliant, and it is one of the finest films to come out of England in the 1980s. Alan Bates, Glenda Jackson, and Julie Christie, all give some of the most glowing and inspired performances of their entire careers. The film is based upon a haunting novel by Rebecca West (undoubtedly based on real situations she had encountered when she was young), with an excellent script by Hugh Whitemore. The film's evocative atmosphere is immensely powerful, aided greatly by the excellent musical score by Richard Rodney Bennett, which brings out the flavour of the film as salt, garlic and rosemary bring out the flavour of roast lamb. The editing is particularly good, by Laurence Méry-Clark. Ian Holm, Frank Finlay, and Jeremy Kemp are all very good in their supporting roles, which are relatively small. A surprise is Ann-Margret as Cousin Jenny, a major role. For a good-time American girl involved with the Rat Pack in Las Vegas, to play a repressed English spinster of 1918 to perfection was no mean achievement, and shows she was a real actress. Such versatility, and it is a pity she did not do more of that. The direction by Alan Bridges is exquisitely sensitive and nearly perfect. His other major achievements were directing THE HIRELING (1973, see my review), and THE SHOOTING PARTY (1985). He ceased working as long ago as 1990. He was a truly inspired director, most of whose output was of quality television which is not available to see today. This tragic tale concerns an English soldier, Captain Baldry (Alan Bates), who has returned from the First War with shell shock. He cannot remember the last twenty years of his life. Such cases did occur, and all this is not just made up. Julie Christie (who in real life is a sweetie) plays the horribly snobbish, vain, unfeeling wife of Bates who takes personal offence that he cannot remember her and does not find her attractive. She has little concern for his welfare or mental heath but keeps trying to force herself and his former life back on him, inviting neighbours to dinner the night after he returns home, with the opposite results to what she intended, of course. Her insensitivity to others is exceeded only by her self love. Bates under-plays his role, which makes it all the more effective. He cannot believe the vacuity of his former existence, and after asking Christie to tell him what their life together had been like and what they used to do all day, he says pathetically: 'Is that all?' They live in a grand house in the country and are exceedingly rich, with their house full of servants. All he can think of is his first great love, when he was twenty, a girl named Margaret (Glenda Jackson). She is found and meets him again after twenty years. She is married, as he is, and we eventually learn that each has a lost a child of the same age in the same year. In a wonderful and poignant scene with Cousin Jenny, Jackson says mournfully of the two lost children: 'It's as if each had only half a life.' Jackson is still in love with Bates and had never ceased to be. They lost touch because of circumstances when young, and now their love has come back. Bates keeps telling her he loves her, and acts like a boy of twenty again when he is with her. Christie seethes with rage but can do nothing, as all her attempts to insult Jackson are water off a duck's back, and merely drive her herself further into irrelevance. Cousin Jenny is wholly in sympathy with Bates but is exposed as hopelessly ineffectual. She lives a wan existence in the huge household, as a family retainer with no future of her own. The subtlety with which all this is enacted and portrayed is what could be called 'the best of English tact'. Every touch is delicate, countless nuances are allowed to drift in the enchanted air of the isolated domain of the great house. Everyone dresses for dinner, and having to put on white tie every evening to come down to dine with one's wife and cousin is shown for the empty ritual it is, accepted, however, as part of a tradition which cannot be openly questioned. After all, in that long-vanished society, formality was the badge of belonging, and if you did not wear your white tie to private dinners with your own wife at home you were no longer 'one of us'. With his recent memory erased, Bates comes perilously close to experiencing exclusion from polite society because he cannot remember anyone and, through his innocence acquired courtesy of an enemy shell against his head, dares to question what he never dared to examine before. As his psychiatrist Ian Holm says, bringing someone like that back to 'normality' might merely mean bringing him back to unhappiness. Without having read the original novel, I can sense beneath the surface of this story a savage attack on the manners and mores of the privileged elite of the time. Presumably Rebecca West was not the girlfriend of socialist H. G. Wells for nothing, and they would have shared an agenda of attacking the root of privilege. Here this is done with immense but devastating subtlety through what in the end becomes a fable thrown like one of the German bombs against the fortress of the elite, as epitomised by the odious character of the voraciously selfish and spoilt Julie Christie. By contrast, Jackson leads a relatively impoverished life in Wealdstone (a location viciously mocked by Christie), married to a boring man, wrapped up in her baking and housework. Appallingly dressed, Christie calls her 'the dowd'. But Bates loves her madly, and ignores Christie. This film will remain a genuine and enduring classic.


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