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Parents' Guide to

The French Lieutenant's Woman

By Kat Halstead, Common Sense Media Reviewer

age 14+

Classic romance has non-graphic sexual content, language.

Movie R 1981 124 minutes
The French Lieutenant's Woman Poster Image

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Complex and multi-layered, the movie uses a film-within-a-film structure to ground its story in a modern reality, while still exploring the restrictive sensibilities of the Victorian era. The French Lieutenant's Woman was adapted for the screen by Harold Pinter, from John Fowles' novel and saw Streep Oscar nominated for her dual performance as Anna and Sarah. Streep moves effortlessly between the flippant Hollywood actress and the melodramatic Victorian outcast, while Irons is convincingly intoxicated and frustrated with both versions.

Stunning cinematography in the Victorian scenes evokes the wildness of Sarah's character, the crashing sea and dense, labyrinthine woodland a reflection of her troubled psyche and her rebellion against the strict, suffocating society of the time. Though the impact of the modern-day scenes is sometimes lost in comparison, with the relationship feeling somewhat subdued in its realism. Well-crafted and beautifully acted, with impressive period detail throughout, this is a wistful and emotive study of passion and desire at once restricted by and transcending the boundaries of societal rules.

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