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DAVID LEAN'S IRISH LANDSCAPE MELODRAMA 'RYAN'S DAUGHTER'

Sarah Miles as David Lean's RYAN'S DAUGHTER Year: 1970
Whether it's desert-dwelling Peter O'Toole staring at the night moon in LAWRENCE OF ARABIA or Omar Sharif's pallid moonglow gaze from a crammed train in DOCTOR ZHIVAGO, within the whirlwind of historic epics, director 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 Rosy lives within the beachy cliffs of Ireland that's visually heaven on earth; then again, like all beautiful places, it can also be purgatory. While there is the historic aspect concerning Irish Revolutionaries seeking German guns under the guard of the occupying British, it's peripheral to this existential and at times Gothic and eerie artsy epic where one character complains: "This whole cursed country will capsize with talk!" And yet, as Christopher Jones is concerned, his dubbed voice doesn't hinder a performance relying on painful, melancholy expressions. Even without sporadic war flashbacks, a tattered near-past is all in the eyes... 

Robert Mitchum outside Ryan's Daughter's Father's Pub
The James Dean-like WILD IN THE STREETS actor plays a young and handsome, limp-crippled British war hero having an affair with Rosy, played by Sarah Miles, who initially forces a rushed marriage to her (former) middle-age, 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 rarely experienced such a vulnerable side to the iconic leading man who, in his youthful past, was usually a confident and impenetrable hero. Unfortunately, the only Oscar winner is John Mills, horribly overacting as the cartoon-like village idiot... mindlessly banal one-minute and then practically an investigating Sherlock Holmes via pantomime the next... saturated with bad makeup hybrid of Quasimodo, Frankenstein's Monster and (later) The Elephant Man, he's simply ridiculous...

Sarah Miles, Christopher Jones and Robert Mitchum
Meanwhile the best scenes occur 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 the audience eavesdrops upon...

And later, while the rice continues to strike the window of their makeshift honeymoon suite next door, as she discovers life isn't like the romance novels that shaped her, it's a personal, contained side of David Lean that his two previous grand epics didn't (need or care to) capture. Another standout is a sunny beach scene after the affair has begun when Mitchum, with his students on a shell-collecting field trip, notices two pair of footprints and, while imagining who could have 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 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 fifteen more. Another has Jones in Rosy's father's barroom, being forced to recall a battle as the annoyingly intrusive Village Idiot taps and taps the wall.

If more strategic time was spent getting to know more about the eclectic side-characters... like Leo McKern's two-faced publican, Ryan; Barry Foster as the legendary, often violent revolutionary who Ryan surreptitiously worships before reluctantly forced to help; Trevor Howard as the stern yet sympathetic, down-to-earth vicar; 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 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
Revolutionary 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
This cute little fantastic young RYAN'S DAUGHTER actress isn't credited
Leo McKern as Ryan in RYAN'S DAUGHTER
Leo McKern as Ryan in RYAN'S DAUGHTER with Barry Foster
Leo McKern as Ryan in RYAN'S DAUGHTER
Leo McKern as Ryan in RYAN'S DAUGHTER with Douglas Sheldon & Barry Foster
Sarah Miles and Robert Mitchum in RYAN'S DAUGHTER
Trevor Howard and Robert Mitchum in RYAN'S DAUGHTER
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