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The French Lieutenant's Woman

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United Kingdom · 1981
Rated R · 2h 4m
Director Karel Reisz
Starring Meryl Streep, Jeremy Irons, Hilton McRae, Lynsey Baxter
Genre Drama, Romance

In this story-within-a-story, Anna is an actress starring opposite Mike in a period piece about the forbidden love between their respective characters, Sarah and Charles. Both actors are involved in serious relationships, but the passionate nature of the script leads to an off-camera love affair as well.

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Washington Post by

A rather poetic costume drama jarringly interrupted by bits of modern banality. [02 Oct 1981, p.17]


Newsweek by David Ansen

The French Lieutenant's Woman is one of the most civilized and provocative movies of the year, but it falls just short of greatness. Perhaps Reisz and Pinter are too innately reticent to wring the last drop of emotional power from Fowles's story. [21 Sep 1981, p.96]


Washington Post by Gary Arnold

Sufficiently attractive and absorbing to sustain the fond delusion that Charles' pursuit of the mystifying Sarah might culminate in a revealing, conclusive confrontation. [02 Oct 1981, p.C1]


Empire by Kim Newman

Aesthetically beautiful and superbly acted, a sure sign of things to come from the leads.


The New Yorker by Pauline Kael

Meryl Streep gives an immaculate, technically accomplished performance as Sarah Woodruff, the romantic mystery woman of John Fowles' novel, but she isn't mysterious. We're not fascinated by Sarah; she's so distanced from us that all we can do is observe how meticulous Streep -- and everything else about the movie -- is.


The New York Times by Vincent Canby

The film's beauty is dazzling. It stands with—or perhaps a little ahead of—Stanley Kubrick's Barry Lyndon and Roman Polanski's Tess, but it also must be conceded, quickly and without too stern a reproach, that there is less to The French Lieutenant's Woman than meets the dazzled eye.

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