All That Heaven Allows

All That Heaven Allows

To thine own self be true.

Oh, melodrama; you and I have never seen eye to eye. Your films are so often overblown and bombastic with laying on the drama as thick as it possibly can be laid that there’s just no way I can possibly take you seriously. What’s worse, all your attempts otherwise, as continuing as they have been, only seem to exacerbate the issue. That said, if there’s any man who would be able to make a melodrama that, even if I can’t personally enjoy, I can certainly respect, it would be Douglas Sirk. Generally considered the best of his genre films, All That Heaven Allows has enjoyed quite the reputation in the years since its release, being added to the National Film Registry and the Criterion Collection. Honestly, if any melodrama film were to be so honored, I guess I’m all right with it being this one.

Jane Wyman is Cary Scott, a middle-aged widower with two college-aged kids living with her in a small town of America. Her kids pressure her into marrying an older gentleman she’s been seeing, but Cary soon develops a relationship with her annual gardener, the somewhat younger Ron Kirby (played by Rock Hudson), that quickly escalates into love. But when the townsfolk and her children find out, Cary must choose between her happiness, or the opinions of her friends and family. I’m not going to go any further, and honestly, do I need to? It’s a melodrama; you know exactly how things are going to turn out, and also that things are going to inevitably end up worse before they end up getting better. Conversely, most of the reason to watch this one is because of the plot, but if you think you won’t be able to get over the fact that you essentially know where it’s headed, there’s a few more things to this one as well. The cinematography was very lovely, as expected, and even with the predictable nature of the story, I found myself greatly appreciating the skill and level of the script, as well as the actors’ ability to make it all believable. Still, I found myself smiling humorously at more than one occasion; after all, this is pretty schmaltzy, but hey, that’s melodrama. There was one moment, for instance, that Kay, Cary’s daughter, bursts in crying about Cary and Ron’s relationship, where Kay reveals how much she does care about what the townsfolk are saying about the pair… and then the music erupted with unparalleled dramatic flair, and I actually laughed out loud. I was pretty happy with how things turned out, though, even if they were a bit hackneyed for the sake of drama, but again, that’s melodrama for you.

I enjoyed this quite a bit more than Sirk’s other list film, but in all honesty, I can’t say I enjoyed it fully for the reasons the film itself wanted me to enjoy it for. I just can’t take a film seriously that lays it on as thick as this film does, even if it is the film’s intention to be as overly dramatic as possible. You might differ from me, however, and indeed many reviews on this one cite it as an especially bright point in cinema’s romances. But for me, I’m just glad I got it out of the way. It’s short as well, so it wasn’t like this was a hard watch, but it’s just not for me.

Arbitrary Rating: 7/10


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