7.0/10
9,948
62 user 36 critic

The French Lieutenant's Woman (1981)

A film is being made of a story, set in 19th century England, about Charles, a biologist who's engaged to be married, but who falls in love with outcast Sarah, whose melancholy makes her ... See full summary »

Director:

Writers:

(novel), (screenplay)
Reviews

Watch Now

From $2.99 (SD) on Amazon Video

ON DISC
Nominated for 5 Oscars. Another 9 wins & 15 nominations. See more awards »

Videos

Photos

Learn more

People who liked this also liked... 

Silkwood (1983)
Biography | Drama | History
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.2/10 X  

A worker at a plutonium processing plant is purposefully contaminated, psychologically tortured and possibly murdered to prevent her from exposing worker safety violations at the plant.

Director: Mike Nichols
Stars: Meryl Streep, Kurt Russell, Cher
Drama
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.9/10 X  

A mother whose child was killed in a Dingo attack in the Australian outback fights to prove her innocence when she is accused of murder.

Director: Fred Schepisi
Stars: Meryl Streep, Sam Neill, Dale Reeves
Drama | Romance
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.7/10 X  

After spending time with his new neighbors, an aspiring writer realizes they are harboring deep secrets that will forever change him.

Director: Alan J. Pakula
Stars: Meryl Streep, Kevin Kline, Peter MacNicol
Plenty (1985)
Drama
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.1/10 X  

A young Englishwoman spends twenty years to make whatever kind of life for herself, at the expense of others around her, in post-World War II England.

Director: Fred Schepisi
Stars: Meryl Streep, Sam Neill, André Maranne
Ironweed (1987)
Drama
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.8/10 X  

An alcoholic drifter spends Halloween in his home town of Albany, New York after returning there for the first time in decades.

Director: Hector Babenco
Stars: Jack Nicholson, Meryl Streep, Carroll Baker
Crime | Drama | Mystery
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.1/10 X  

A Manhattan psychiatrist probes a patient's murder and falls for the victim's mysterious mistress.

Director: Robert Benton
Stars: Roy Scheider, Meryl Streep, Jessica Tandy
Drama
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.1/10 X  

Respected liberal Senator Joe Tynan is asked to lead the opposition to a Supreme Court appointment. It means losing an old friend and fudging principles to make the necessary deals, as well... See full summary »

Director: Jerry Schatzberg
Stars: Alan Alda, Barbara Harris, Meryl Streep
Comedy | Drama
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.7/10 X  

A substance-addicted actress tries to look on the bright side even as she is forced to move back in with her mother to avoid unemployment.

Director: Mike Nichols
Stars: Meryl Streep, Shirley MacLaine, Dennis Quaid
Julia (1977)
Drama
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.4/10 X  

At the behest of an old and dear friend, playwright Lillian Hellman undertakes a dangerous mission to smuggle funds into Nazi Germany.

Director: Fred Zinnemann
Stars: Jane Fonda, Vanessa Redgrave, Jason Robards
Drama
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7/10 X  

A career woman reassesses her parents' lives after she is forced to care for her cancer-stricken mother.

Director: Carl Franklin
Stars: Meryl Streep, Renée Zellweger, William Hurt
Drama | Romance
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.5/10 X  

During shopping for Christmas, Frank and Molly run into each other. This fleeting short moment will start to change their lives, when they recognize each other months later in the train ... See full summary »

Director: Ulu Grosbard
Stars: Robert De Niro, Meryl Streep, Harvey Keitel
Heartburn (1986)
Comedy | Drama
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6/10 X  

A food writer pregnant with her second baby finds out her husband is having an affair.

Director: Mike Nichols
Stars: Meryl Streep, Jack Nicholson, Jeff Daniels
Edit

Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
...
...
Hilton McRae ...
Sam
Emily Morgan ...
Charlotte Mitchell ...
Mrs. Tranter
...
Jean Faulds ...
Mrs. Tranter's Cook
...
Mr. Ernest Freeman
...
Vicar Forsyth
...
Mrs. Fairley - Mrs. Poulteney's Housekeeper
...
...
Dairyman in Lyme
...
...
Girl on Undercliff
...
Boy on Undercliff
Edit

Storyline

A film is being made of a story, set in 19th century England, about Charles, a biologist who's engaged to be married, but who falls in love with outcast Sarah, whose melancholy makes her leave him after a short, but passionate affair. Anna and Mike, who play the characters of Sarah and Charles, go, during the shooting of the film, through a relationship that runs parallel to that of their characters. Written by Leon Wolters <wolters@strw.LeidenUniv.nl>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Taglines:

She was lost from the moment she saw him.

Genres:

Drama | Romance

Certificate:

R | See all certifications »
Edit

Details

Country:

Language:

Release Date:

16 October 1981 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

La amante del teniente francés  »

Box Office

Gross:

$22,600,000 (USA)
 »

Company Credits

Production Co:

 »
Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

Color:

Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
See  »
Edit

Did You Know?

Trivia

The film's two top-billed lead actors both played dual roles each for characters featured in two separate times, period and contemporary. Actress Meryl Streep portrayed both Anna and Sarah Woodruff whilst actor Jeremy Irons played both Mike and Charles Henry Smithson. See more »

Goofs

While at the house in the Lake District, the reaction to Sarah being pushed to the ground by Charles is genuine; Meryl actually hits her head on the floor & when Jeremy acknowledges; she nods, giggles & reorients herself in position next to him. See more »

Quotes

Sarah: I have long imagined a day such as this. I have longed for it. I was lost from the moment I saw you.
Charles Henry Smithson: I too.
See more »

Connections

Referenced in Windrider (1986) See more »

Soundtracks

Prelude in C minor
Written by Johann Sebastian Bach
See more »

Frequently Asked Questions

See more (Spoiler Alert!) »

User Reviews

 
Complex yet Stunning
24 January 2002 | by (England) – See all my reviews

I came to the film adaptation of 'The French Lieutnant's Woman' with initial trepidation. As anyone who has read the John Fowles novel will appreciate, this is one text for which adaptation would not be a walk in the park.

How unfounded my uncertainty was! The director, writer and actors did a fantastic job in adapting a complex novel to the screen. The film works impeccably as a metaphor for what the novel was trying to achieve, which is all we should expect from film adaptations.

Stand out features include:

The actors are perfect. I can't say anything new about Meryl Streep, who I believe to be the finest actress ever to have graced the cinema screen. Here (as ever) she is perfect - if you didn't know she was American you would believe she is English, the accent is so accurate. She embodies the character of Sarah perfectly with a multi layered performance, managing to convey Sarah's dignity, her independence and her complex mystery. My only criticism (if you can call it that) is that she is too beautiful! According to the novel, Sarah is "not beautiful by any period's standards", but with her porcelain complexion and delicate features, Meryl Streep is stunning. As Charles, Jeremy Irons gives a commanding performance, managing to convey the character's genteel veneer and the inner passion that lurks beneath. Both actors are excellent, and the chemistry between the leads is tangible.

A "Story within a story". The way in which Harold Pinter weaves the Fowles tale with the lives of Anna and Mike - the actresses who are playing the Victorian lovers, is inspired. The manner in which the film flits from Victorian age to modern day, is the filmic way of conveying Fowles's tendency in the novel to judge his Victorian characters and their era by Twentieth Century standards. Some critics have found this device jarring - I find it clever and affecting.

Overall, 'The French Lieutenant's Woman' is a beautiful, haunting tale of repressed love and social hypocrisy. Right from the opening shot, where we see the image of Sarah on the Cobb looking out to sea, the viewer is grabbed and drawn into this complex world. The actors are faultless, the screenplay ingenious and the cinematography and score, haunting. If you normally find yourself disappointed by novel adaptations, look no further than 'The French Lieutenant's Woman' to show you that when a work is adapted properly, the results can be stunning.


68 of 78 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you?

Contribute to This Page