This movie begins with a scene in which Barbara (Celia Johnson) rings Leonora (Margaret Leighton) to tell her that something has happened to Chris (Noël Coward). At this point, we don't know... Read allThis movie begins with a scene in which Barbara (Celia Johnson) rings Leonora (Margaret Leighton) to tell her that something has happened to Chris (Noël Coward). At this point, we don't know who Chris is or what has happened, only that he has lost conciousness. The movie then fla... Read allThis movie begins with a scene in which Barbara (Celia Johnson) rings Leonora (Margaret Leighton) to tell her that something has happened to Chris (Noël Coward). At this point, we don't know who Chris is or what has happened, only that he has lost conciousness. The movie then flashes back a year, to when old friends Barbara and Leonora meet again after having lost con... Read all
Flawed but worth watching
This appears to be one of Noel Coward's lesser known films, and it is easy to understand why. Taken at face value it's not a bad film, but there's nothing terribly good about it either. Nothing much happens at all throughout the course of the film, it's simply the story of Chris and Leonora's ill-fated affair, and Barbara's reaction to it. The only thing that keeps the film interesting is the fact that we already know it's going to end badly for one reason or another, owing to the first scene. Oddly, there are many perfect opportunities in the story for conflict, and yet none of them are utilised. For example, it would've been much more interesting and believable if Barbara had've fallen out with Leonora, but instead the two remained on good terms throughout the film. The notion of Barbara having been betrayed by her friend was not explored at all - in fact she didn't even seem to feel betrayed by her husband; she even encourages him to go on a holiday with Leonora. Similarly, Chris' two secretaries at his practice, Susan Birch and Tim Verney, who also happen to be close friends of both Chris and Barbara, are never forced to take sides. In fact, Tim shies away from conflict by telling Chris that he's terribly fond of both him and Barbara. Despite the strange lack of conflict, the biggest flaw in the film is the fact that we don't care whether Chris ends up with Leonora or Barbara. The two womens' personalities are indistinguishable anyway so we don't know which of the two is better suited to be with Chris, and besides this, Barbara's permissiveness gives the impression that she hardly cares about the affair anyway. Furthermore, I found Chris and Leonora's relationship somewhat unconvincing. I can overlook the ridiculously short timeframe in which they fall for each other because that is so common in films of this era, but even then the relationship seemed shallow. Coward's character was too austere and cynical to be the object of Leonora's affections. He reminds me of the socially inept genius Sir Earnest Pease from the film "Very Important Person" - I'm sure the two would've gotten along well. Chris' coldness and austerity made his love for Leonora seem insincere. I think Coward should've sat this one out and given his part to a younger man - as it is, I was constantly wondering what this young beauty saw in such a sombre, mostly emotionless, balding middle aged man. Despite all my criticisms, the film still manages to be interesting - just not terribly compelling. The fact that none of the characters are particularly well developed gives them an enigmatic nature, which is somewhat intriguing. The Astonished Heart is certainly worth watching, but it is a flawed piece of cinema.
- May 18, 2003
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