It's the early twentieth century. The Morel family lives in the coal mining community of Bestwood, England, just outside of Nottingham. There is little connection now between husband and wife, Walter and Gertrude, due to their differences, while each quietly or not so quietly is able to manipulate emotionally their now adult sons. While eldest son William has escaped the clutches of his parents by moving to London, each of the two remaining sons have ended up having a natural alliance or connection to one parent. Arthur, like brusque Walter, works in the mines, something that Walter believes is their duty and legacy. Artistically inclined Paul, who is self-taught in his art, instead has a lower paying office job, in Gertrude's mind it a longer path but to greater financial gain, Paul who is never to work in the mines. Paul, arguably, would live as a painter if he was able. Paul's relationship with two women is shown in light of the influence Gertrude has had in his life, he who has ...Written by
At 20 minutes and 14 seconds, Trevor Howard's performance in this movie is one of the shortest ever to be nominated for an Academy Award for Best Actor in a Leading Role. See more »
You know, my mother disapproves more and more of the books you bring. She blames you for putting ideas into my head.
Does she think heaven frowns on ideas? Your mother breathes religion through her nostrils!
Do you think that's wrong?
It's not religious just to be religious! I think a crow is religious as it sails across the sky. It's showing the glory of God but it doesn't know it. God doesn't know things, he is things.
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This exquisite adaptation of D.H. Lawrence's novel is famed cinematographer Jack Cardiff's most accomplished film as a director; in fact, he was nominated and indeed won several major Best Direction awards (including the Golden Globe). Sadly, none of his other directorial efforts were anywhere near as rewarding although I'd still like to watch at least 2 of them - the epic THE LONG SHIPS (1963) and the horror film THE MUTATIONS (1974; a SE DVD of which has been released under the title THE FREAKMAKER).
Amazingly, this was a Hollywood production (made by 20th Century Fox) and, as such, leading man Dean Stockwell (who was probably never better) was imposed on Cardiff by producer Jerry Wald - though he seems to have been pleased with his performance. The acting of the Oscar-nominated Trevor Howard (as Stockwell's boorish and drunkard coal-miner father) and Mary Ure (as the married but separated young suffragette with whom Stockwell has an affair), as well as Wendy Hiller (as his strong but possessive mother), is irreproachable. The supporting cast includes Ernest Thesiger (in one of his last films) and Donald Pleasence, with both unfortunately having limited screen-time.
Freddie Francis' luminous black-and-white cinematography earned the film its only Oscar; interestingly, Francis also followed in Cardiff's footsteps and became a film director himself (with similarly erratic results, ironically enough). Mario Nascimbene's lovely music score and the film's vivid recreation of an era (in authentic locations, no less) add immeasurably to its lasting impression.
The coal-mine setting recalls earlier films like Carol Reed's THE STARS LOOK DOWN (1939) and John Ford's HOW GREEN WAS MY VALLEY (1941), with which it can be favorably compared. Still, for all its quaint Englishness and the inherent sentimentality of its narrative, the film is a remarkably adult and frank depiction of sexual and artistic awakening vis-à-vis repressed Edwardian society and, together with Ken Russell's equally celebrated adaptation of WOMEN IN LOVE (1969), remains undoubtedly the finest screen rendition of D. H. Lawrence's work.
It's a shame, therefore, that this is as yet unavailable on R1 DVD but the R2 edition I own is a more than adequate substitute, with a very nice-looking print of the main feature, surprisingly strong audio and, apart from the basic supplements of the original theatrical trailer and a stills gallery, features a wonderful interview with Cardiff about the making of SONS AND LOVERS (interspersed with relevant clips from the film itself) which clocks in at around half-an-hour.
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