7.1/10
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20 user 6 critic

The Subject Was Roses (1968)

A young man returning home from World War II finds himself caught up in his parents' turbulent relationship.

Director:

Ulu Grosbard

Writer:

Frank D. Gilroy (screenplay)
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Won 1 Oscar. Another 1 win & 3 nominations. See more awards »

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Cast

Complete credited cast:
Patricia Neal ... Nettie Cleary
Jack Albertson ... John Cleary
Martin Sheen ... Timmy Cleary
Don Saxon Don Saxon ... Nightclub M.C.
Elaine Williams Elaine Williams ... Woman in Club
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Storyline

When Timmy Cleary (Sheen), comes home from soldiering, he's greeted by the open but strained arms of his two parents, John and Nettie, (Neal and Albertson). Once considered sickly and weak, he has now distinguished himself in the service and is ready to begin a new life. His parents, however, are still trapped in the bygone days of early and unresolved marital strife and begin emotionally deteriorating through several drama packed encounters. Now mature, the young Tim Cleary finally understands the family dynamics that has played all throughout his boyhood. By the simple act of bringing his mother roses on behalf of his father, Tim realizes he may have destroyed his family, but is helpless to obtain resolution which must come from both his parents. Written by Teresa B. O'Donnell <sun.moon.stars@worldnet.att.net>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Taglines:

The Story of Three Strangers...A Mother...A Father...And a Son See more »

Genres:

Drama

Certificate:

G | See all certifications »
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Details

Country:

USA

Language:

English

Release Date:

12 February 1970 (Denmark) See more »

Also Known As:

A História de Três Estranhos See more »

Company Credits

Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs

Sound Mix:

Mono

Color:

Color (Metrocolor)

Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
See full technical specs »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

By the shoulder patch on his uniform jacket and shirt, Timmy was in the 28th Infantry Divison - also known as the Keystone Divison, being made of units from the Pennsylvania National Guard. Later, it acquired the nickname "Bloody Bucket" from its intense combat in the Hurtgen Forest and the Battle of the Bulge, and its red Keystone insignia. See more »

Goofs

When the family goes out on the town for the night, a marquee for We Were Strangers can be seen. However, that film was not released until 1949, well past the time when Timmy would have come home from the war. See more »

Quotes

John Cleary: You don't know what you believe in?
Timmy Cleary: Do you?
John Cleary: Yes!
Timmy Cleary: Tell me. Go on...
John Cleary: I believe in the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost. I believe God created Man in his own image...
Timmy Cleary: [Interrupting] Pop! If your faith works for you, I'm glad. Really, I'm very glad. I wish it worked for me, but it doesn't.
John Cleary: Do you believe in God - yes or no?
Timmy Cleary: I don't believe in heaven or hell or purgatory...
John Cleary: [Interrupting, shouting] YES or NO!
Timmy Cleary: I believe there is something bigger than myself. What you call it or what it is, I don't ...
[...]
See more »

Connections

Referenced in Mystery Science Theater 3000: The Unearthly (1991) See more »

Soundtracks

Who Knows Where the Time Goes
Written by Sandy Denny (uncredited)
Sung by Judy Collins
See more »

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User Reviews

 
THE SUBJECT WAS ROSES (Ulu Grosbard, 1968) ***
5 March 2014 | by Bunuel1976See all my reviews

As was the case with the recently-viewed BUTTERFIELD 8 (1960), I repeatedly missed out on one this over the years – including a local TV broadcast; with this in mind, I was not especially looking forward to a three-parter talkfest – but the result was surprisingly compelling, perceptively written and very well-acted. The film was proudly listed as "Frank D. Gilroy's THE SUBJECT WAS ROSES", but Patricia Neal's sole above-the-title credit was misleading – as the role (which landed her a Best Actress Oscar nomination) is no bigger than those of Jack Albertson (who actually won in the Supporting Actor category) or Martin Sheen (who received a Golden Globe nomination instead)! Having said that, it was Oscar winner Neal's return to the screen after a series of strokes had almost killed her in 1965…so that could well have been the reason behind it; incidentally, both men were recreating their stage roles here.

The plot is quite simple: WWII veteran Sheen's return home opens up a can of worms as to how his parents view him. Albertson had thought Neal over-protective in his regards and, in fact, expresses amazement that he made it back without so much as a scratch; she, on the other hand, begins to worry that the boy has grown up too fast – especially since he is making his best (read: trying too hard) to fill his father's shoes, down to the excessive intake of alcohol and repeating a ditty the older man spouts whenever annoyed at something! The situation comes to a head when the two men go out and return with a bunch of roses for her: Sheen insists Albertson tell her he thought of the gift himself, which she takes as an attempt by her philandering husband to change his ways…but when, during an argument between mother and son, the latter informs her the flowers were his idea, she realizes she has lost the affection of both men (given that the boy was willing to deceive her as well)! This leads to her walking out for some 12 hours (just when they were expected at her convention-bound mother's house for the weekly Sunday dinner appointment) – during which Sheen decides it is high time for him to take charge of his own life...

While, as I said, the film is basically just three people interacting – eating, dancing, musing (about their achievements and regrets), or shouting in each other's faces (including the probing of religious faith) – what goes on is so universal that, at some point, one is bound to find something that can be related to…and therein lies its strength (to which the three performers give an exceptional ring of truth)! With respect to the TCM-sourced print, there was some cropping involved as the channel logo was barely visible and some picture freezing/imbalance half-way through (when the former occurred again at the very end, it emerged merely a stylistic trait which quickly led to a dissolve into the final credit-roll!). By the way, the soundtrack is peppered with a number of ear-friendly folk songs showcasing the voice of Judy Collins.


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