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Lianna and her husband Dick have been married for a few years but the marriage isn't a happy one, since Dick treats her with arrogance. One day Lianna falls in love - with Ruth, a teacher. The people who know them act different: her husband with feelings of sexual betrayal, her children with curiosity and Lianna's friends with ambivalence. Written by
The opening credits credit only the production company and the crew members. The cast is not credited until the end credits. The title of the film, LIANNA, appears as the last title card after John Sayles is credited as writer, producer, director and editor. See more »
Sayles' second feature as director, and his first great film. It's not perfect, has its share of clichés and is certainly dated, but it's wonderful. Linda Griffiths stars as Lianna, a young mother of two who is constantly suffering under her smarter, controlling husband, a film professor (Jon DeVries). Lianna doesn't have much of a life, but she manages to sneak in a night class twice a week. She develops what seems to be a non-romantic crush on her professor (Jane Hallaren). When her husband cheats on her, the relationship with her professor changes to a sexual one. It would be easy to hold the fact that Sayles is a man against the movie. However, Sayles does here what he does best: create strong, identifiable characters for whom we care. Lianna is really one of the best developed characters I can remember. I absolutely love the way Sayles makes her intellectually inferior to both her husband and lover. It gives her struggle a lot of weight. And I love the line she says to her husband: "Just because you can argue better doesn't mean you are right." She breaks my heart. The power structure between her and her husband is brilliantly written. I also liked that Sayles creates a new power structure, and not one wholly different from the marriage, between Lianna and her lesbian lover. My only complaint is that Sayles does sometimes treat Hallaren's character too kindly. She's clearly taking advantage of Lianna, and at times she's clearly treating her badly. In fact, the relationship starts exactly the same way as the relationship between Lianna and her husband. She was once his student, as well. The parallel isn't underlined as well as it should have been. I think Linda Griffith's performance here is one of the best ever. It's a tragedy that she didn't become famous after this. I know that Sayles isn't the greatest director (specifically referring to the direction) in the world, but this is some of his best work on that front (his very best is certainly Matewan). Of course his greatest talent is his writing; he is such a remarkable writer of human interrelationships. Sayles also gives his best performance as an actor in this film. Lianna is such a subtle work of human emotion. It really doesn't have any big moments, and it doesn't end with any clear resolution. The film's power only hit me about 20 minutes after it was over. It's a small masterpiece.
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