I first saw this movie during its initial release, in 1971, while I was serving in the U.S. Army at Fort Bragg, North Carolina. It affected me to such an extent that I (a "tough guy" G.I., mind you) left the theater in tears and had to walk along the train tracks of Fayetteville, North Carolina, for half an hour before I finally regained my composure. It is a poignant film, wonderfully written, acted, directed, and photographed. The interplay among the Terrible Trio (Hermie, Oscy, Benjie) is quite funny indeed, and most men will relate to the boys' curiosity about sex. But the scenes between Hermie and Dorothy raise this film into an exalted realm of the cinema, capturing the human spirit with rare insight. Among bittersweet, nostalgic, coming-of-age movies, only this one and the brilliant (but sadly neglected) "A Summer Story" strike me as achieving such a remarkable level of honesty. The sequence after the War Department telegram arrives is, in my opinion, one of the most beautiful, sweet, sensitive scenes ever to be filmed. To those of you who accuse the bereaved Dorothy of committing statutory rape, of being a pedophile, and other such stupidly nonsensical allegations, I say take your politically correct crap and stick it up your... (Sorry, I got carried away there.) It's just that I resent dirty-minded morons who try to ruin a sweet, poignant scene by calling it something that it is not. Dorothy is no predator. She certainly has not been lying in wait for Hermie. She is shattered by the news, she has turned to the bottle for solace, and Hermie only happens along, offering physical comfort and a husband-figure in her time of need. I find nothing at all offensive about it. In fact, it is a lovely scene that is handled by director Robert Mulligan with great taste and sensitivity. It could hardly even be described as sexual. Please make it a point to see this film. You will never forget it.
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