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DAVID LEAN'S IRISH LANDSCAPE EPIC OF 'RYAN'S DAUGHTER'

Robert Mitchum outside Ryan's Daughter's Father's Pub YEAR: 1970
Whether it's desert-dwelling Peter O'Toole staring at the moon in LAWRENCE OF ARABIA or Omar Sharif's desperate moonglow gaze outside a crammed train in DOCTOR ZHIVAGO, within the whirlwind of historic epics, David Lean's characters find small pockets of downtime to smell the roses. But in RYAN'S DAUGHTER, the roses (or in this case, Rosy) is practically all there is...

And it's where she lives within the cliffs of Ireland that's visually heaven on earth; and like all beautiful places, it can also be hell. While there is the historic aspect concerning Irish Revolutionaries seeking guns under the guard of the occupying British, it's peripheral to this existential and at times even Gothic, eerie, big budget arthouse saga where one character complains: "This whole cursed country will capsize with talk!" And yet, as Christopher Jones is concerned, his voice being dubbed doesn't hinder a performance relying on painful, melancholy expressions. Even without sporadic war flashbacks, his tattered near-past is all in the eyes... 

Sarah Miles in David Lean's Ryan's Daughter
Jones plays a young and handsome, injured British war hero having an affair with Sarah Miles's Rosy, who initially forces a romance and then quick marriage to older, widowed schoolmaster Robert Mitchum as Charles...

In one scene he's embarrassed to be shirtless in his own home (what his young wife prefers), and the sheepish way Mitchum hunkers-down at the kitchen table is, by itself, worthy of an Oscar nomination since we've never witnessed such a vulnerable side to the iconic leading man. Unfortunately and unfairly, the only Oscar winner is John Mills, horribly overacting as the cartoon-like village idiot (mindlessly banal one-minute and then an investigating Sherlock Holmes the next), saturated with bad makeup a hybrid of Quasimodo and Frankenstein's Monster...

Sarah Miles, Christopher Jones and Robert Mitchum
The best scenes are when the oblivious Rosy thinks Mitchum's Charles is the man of her dreams. Her wedding day is filmed how THE GODFATHER would be: seeming part of a noisy and active, palpable real-time that the audience is eavesdropping upon...

And later, while the rice continues to fly, hitting the window of their makeshift honeymoon suite just next door, as Rosy discovers life isn't like the romance novels that shaped her, it's a personal, contained side of David Lean even his greatest epics didn't capture. Another standout is a sunny beach scene after the affair has begun, and Mitchum, leading a field trip, notices two pair of footprints and, while imagining who made them, we visually share in his thoughts...

Robert Mitchum and perhaps his future wife RATING: ****
Unfortunately, RYAN'S DAUGHTER suffers by how long and tedious particular scenes play out: One has Jones' soldier introduced to the military barracks by an officer whose rambling expository seems endless, even after the first two-minutes and then sustaining for what fees like ten. Another has Jones in Rosy's father's barroom, being forced to recall a battle as the Village Idiot annoyingly taps and taps the wall.

If more effective time was spent getting to know more about the eclectic side-characters... including Leo McKern's two-faced publican, Ryan; Barry Foster as the legendary, often violent revolutionary Ryan reluctantly aids; Trevor Howard as a stern yet sympathetic priest; or the town's young bitch bully, meaner than a Salem witch-hunter... and less time on the soap operatic and often sappy, over-symbolic melodrama... we'd experience more what makes the characters tick in a story where the people should mean more than their surrounding landscape.
Christopher Jones and Sarah Miles in RYAN'S DAUGHTER
The beautiful landscape of RYAN'S DAUGHTER
Barry Foster takes aim in RYAN'S DAUGHTER
Sarah Miles and Robert Mitchum in RYAN'S DAUGHTER
Barry Foster and Christopher Jones in RYAN'S DAUGHTER
Barry Foster and Christopher Jones in RYAN'S DAUGHTER
Christopher Jones in RYAN'S DAUGHTER
Barry Foster in RYAN'S DAUGHTER
Evin Crowley, Sarah Miles, Marie Kean in RYAN'S DAUGHTER
Robert Mitchum as Charles in RYAN'S DAUGHTER
John Mills and Christopher Jones in RYAN'S DAUGHTER
Evin Crowley, Sarah Miles, Marie Kean in RYAN'S DAUGHTER
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