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When this film came out in 1984 I saw it in a theater in Berkeley, CA, and found it so touching that I went back to see it several times. Years later, I tracked down the VHS and have seen it several times since then. Set shortly after the outbreak of World War II in Britain, it tells the story of Laura Meister, a beauty of 16 whose father is an anti-Nazi German physicist married to an exotic, overly-dramatic French/Russian beauty. The parents and Laura have fled to Britain after being denounced by the son, Laura's brother, a pro-Nazi Luftwaffe pilot. Thus Laura finds herself a new student in a proper English girl's school (in what is the year one or two years prior to the final, graduation year), where she has the disadvantage not only of being a new girl, and not only of being a new girl who is a foreigner, but who is seen by the other girls as being from the enemy. Fortunately, she makes friends with Patience MacKenzie, a somewhat plain but sensitive girl, but then a series of misfortunes befall her father and mother, and, as the war goes on, tensions mount. The film carries through the year, and through the next year or two, concluding as Laura's and Patience's class reaches graduation, and a little beyond. The film is a wonderful portrayal of adolescence, of the difficulty of finding oneself put into a new and alien environment, and of friendship and the competing pressures that threaten to pull friendships apart. Laura's situation was particularly evocative for me, because, as a "Navy brat" who attended ten different schools before entering college, I well knew the feeling of being introduced in a new class in the middle of a school year. The acting is excellent throughout, and the actress who plays Laura (Marie Therese-Relin) is radiant. The actress herself is German, but multilingual, switching between English, French, and German sometimes all in the same sentence, so she is totally authentic. I know that the teaser for the film is something about secret passions between girls, but that is just salesmanship: the real substance of this film is friendship and caring for one another despite extraordinary difficulties. The film makes a few changes from the book, also called Secret Places, on which it is based, particularly regarding the end, which is happier in the movie. For those who have the time, I recommend you also watch The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie, which is set in a similar girls' school just a few years before World War II, and then Secret Places.
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