“The French Lieutenant’s Woman” (1981)

I bought this (hard to find) DVD via Amazon!
I bought this DVD recently.

I wanted to see this movie for a few wks!  Some parts were on You Tube, but NOT the entire film.  So I decided to buy it on Amazon (it was a low price).  It’s an unique and memorable picture w/ 2 VERY strong actors, though Meryl Streep later said he felt “in over her head” in playing Sarah.  There is some beautiful lighting and scenery, including a lush forest.  It’s also mysterious, making you think about the complexity of the human mind.    

The mysterious Sarah Woodruff (Meryl Streep)
Sarah (Meryl Streep)
This is a movie w/in a movie b/c Streep and Irons play two roles.  In the modern world, they are Anna (an American actress) and Mike (a British actor).  Anna (who plays mysterious outcast Sarah Woodrough) and Mike (who plays wealthy science enthusiast Charles Smithson) are filming The French Lieutenant’s Woman in Dorset and London.  We shift from the past (Victorian England) to the present (’80s) throughout the film, enabling us to compare and contrast the actors and their roles.   
Charles Smithson (Jeremy Irons)
Charles (Jeremy Irons)

Charles comes from London to engage the hand of Ernestina, the young daughter of a wealthy shipbuilder.  He’s known her for several weeks, and they seem very much in love.  Ernestina’s father approves of the match, though Charles is a follower of Darwin.  After their engagement, Charles and Ernestina take a walk near the seaside.  Charles sees the far-off figure of a woman (wearing a dark cloak) at the edge of the walkway.  It’s a very windy day and violent waves are coming up over the seawall.  Being a sensitive gentleman, he is alarmed about the stranger’s safety. 

When Charles asks about her, Ernestina remarks “oh, tragedy.”  Sarah is notorious in the community b/c of her (actual or alleged?) affair w/ a French officer years ago.  Though it is dangerous, the curious Charles runs out to warn the woman.  Sarah turns to face him, but says nothing.  We see that Charles has been deeply affected by seeing her- love at first sight!  He learns more about her (precarious) position in life, and wants to help her.          


The actors, Mike and Anna, are romantically involved during shooting.  These modern people are NOT as interesting as the Victorians, but have their moments.  In one small (but eye-opening scene) Anna reads to Mike from a history book.  We learn that most of the girls working in London brothels were “nice girls who’d lost their jobs”; some had been governesses.  I don’t want to give TOO much away; you should watch this film ASAP!      


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