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I Never Promised You a Rose Garden (1977)

A disturbed,institutionalized 16-year-old girl struggles between fantasy and reality.


Anthony Page


Joanne Greenberg (novel) (as Hannah Green), Gavin Lambert (screenplay) | 1 more credit »
Nominated for 1 Oscar. Another 3 nominations. See more awards »




Cast overview, first billed only:
Kathleen Quinlan ... Deborah Blake
Bibi Andersson ... Dr. Fried
Ben Piazza ... Jay Blake
Lorraine Gary ... Ester Blake
Martine Bartlett ... Secret Wife
Margo Ann Berdeshevsky Margo Ann Berdeshevsky ... Drawing Patient
Darlene Craviotto Darlene Craviotto ... Carla
Reni Santoni ... Hobbs
Susan Tyrrell ... Lee
Signe Hasso ... Helene
Norman Alden ... McPherson
Sylvia Sidney ... Miss Coral
Dennis Quaid ... Shark, Baseball Pitcher
Karin Collison ... Nurse (as Elizabeth Dartmoor)
Robert Viharo ... Anterrabae


Based very loosely on the intricate novel by Joanne Greenberg. A young woman's devotion to a childhood fantasy kingdom has taken over her entire life and causes her endless pain and degradation. Placed in a mental hospital, she has the great good fortune to have a truly caring therapist who tries to help her accept reality, even though reality isn't so great either. Written by Molly Malloy <mailcall@bluemarble.net>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


The Best Selling Novel Is Now a Triumphant New Film


Drama | Fantasy


R | See all certifications »

Did You Know?


Though mentioned as part of the cast in the end credits of the film, Barbara Steele's scenes never reached the final cut. See more »


In the New Year's party scene, Deborah is seen with loose hair talking to Dr. Fried and then there is close-up of Deborah with her hair pulled back from her forehead. See more »


Deborah Blake: You can turn me off, you know. You can go off with your friends and write another paper on schizophrenia and get an award for it. But I can't turn me off. So I'm calling off the fight.
Dr. Fried: So you quit. Stay in the nuthouse for the rest of your life.
See more »


Singing the Greens
Written by Susan Tyrrell and Georg Michalski
Performed by Susan Tyrrell
See more »

User Reviews

Ultimately, the setting becomes oversatured and the characters explored but not understood
23 April 2007 | by theVHSrocksSee all my reviews

But there is still a very interesting movie in here with a number of memorable sequences.

The movie is about our protagonist, who to our understanding, is a teenaged girl, who apparently either hallucinates about some bizarre fantasy world (and not in a fun Terry Gilliam way but a seriously bizarre "why would she even consider this superior way?") or merely is in fantasy about it in escaping from reality, it's not explained. It begins as she goes to a mental hospital in the countryside it looks and almost immediately our main character inexplicably stabs herself and gets thrown in a disturbed section as opposed to the initial summer camp section. It is here, where our story follows the rest of the film, a series of up and down spirals and looks at her interactions with the other patients.

The thing about all of this is we never actually get to understand the characters at all. We are never told what they're about, why they feel this way, what their backgrounds are, and why they do what they what they do. They just are, and throughout the whole piece the audience feels like with any of the characters, it never surpasses the point of acquaintment because even, if the characters be developed, they were never characterized in the first place, so it's irrelevant. At the same time, though the movie certainly to its benefit explores the setting and situation in a very visceral way, by the movie's end, everything feels oversaturated, because it feels as though we have spent such time in this setting watching similar things with people that don't really mean much for so long that it just starts to wear thin. When the film end, we aren't really sure why the events have turned out as they did, because we aren't really sure why they were the other way in the first place. It just feels like a breath of fresh air to get a new sense of scenery.

The thing is, though, despite that, the movie is still successful probably because the happenings themselves are rather interesting, the unflinching portrayal has the power to captivate, and there is claustrophobic intensity to the asylum as well as a general heterosexual male (being the viewer) to recessive female women appeal, which really adds a type of close-knit feel with the characters.

So, it's not the most satisfying nor the most well-devised film of its genre out there, but if you be a fan of asylum films, this is definitely worth checking out. I also must note that out of all the mental hospital films out there, this is probably the most intense. This movie is 100% serious and very frightening and unsettling. There's no comedy nor light-heart in this movie. The tone is closer to a horror film (despite that it is a pure dramatic realism) than it is to One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest. From that perspective this film is actually very unique.

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Release Date:

29 October 1977 (Sweden) See more »

Also Known As:

I Never Promised You a Rose Garden See more »

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Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
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