An almost accidental romance is kindled between a German woman in her mid-sixties and a Moroccan migrant worker around twenty-five years younger. They abruptly decide to marry, appalling everyone around them.
Rainer Werner Fassbinder
El Hedi ben Salem,
Cary Scott is a widow with two grown children. She's been leading a quiet life since her husband died, socializing with a small circle of friends. Her children no longer live with her full-time but come home every weekend. She's not unhappy but also doesn't realize how bored she is. Her friend Sara Warren encourages her to get a television set to keep her company but she doesn't want that either. She develops a friendship with Ron Kirby who owns his own nursery and comes every spring and fall to trim her trees. Ron is much younger than Cary and their friendship soon turns to love. Her circle of friends are surprised that she is seeing such a younger man and she might be prepared to overlook that - Ron certainly doesn't care about the differences in their ages - but when her son and daughter vehemently object, she decides to sacrifice her own feelings for their happiness. Over time however, she realizes that her children will be spending less and less time with her as they pursue their...Written by
This film is part of the Criterion Collection, spine #95. See more »
Cary reads two quotations from the same page in Walden: "The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation" and "If a man does not keep pace with his companions..." Those two quotations are from opposite ends of the book, the first and last chapters, respectively. See more »
Mick discovered for himself that he had to make his own decisions, that he had to be a man.
And you want *me* to be a man?
[Giving her a knowing smile]
Only in that one way.
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Cary Scott (Jane Wyman) is a middle-aged, wealthy woman whose husband recently died. Ron Kirby (Rock Hudson) is Cary's younger, independent-minded landscape gardener. Ron reads Thoreau, respects nature, and values simplicity and honesty. Cary and Ron are attracted to each other. For Ron, marriage to Cary is an easy decision. But for Cary, the decision to marry Ron is harder. She must confront the disapproval of her grown children, and the disapproval of friends whose materialistic, country club values are inconsistent with the values of Thoreau.
In a town where people know each other's business, tongues wag. Feelings get hurt. Conflict erupts. The film's subdued lighting and vivid colors, combined with soft piano and velvety violin background music, create a tone that is sad and sentimental. Viewers are right to say that this Douglas Sirk directed film is a melodramatic soap opera.
Thinly veiled behind the simple plot, however, lies a profound message: "to thine own self be true". It is a message totally out of sync with 1950's America. Yet, the message would surface a decade later as the 1960's youth mantra: "do your own thing".
As an archetype, Ron seems too pure. And Cary's children and friends, shallow, selfish, vain, gossipy, and judgmental, are easy to dislike. This sharp dichotomy is somewhat unrealistic. But it gets the point across. And that point is a blistering indictment of 1950's American materialism and mindless conformity.
The film was thus ahead of its time. Despite its high technical quality, it was snubbed by the Oscars. In retrospect, "All That Heaven Allows" is superior to all five of the Oscar best picture nominees from that year. And its message is just as relevant now as it was fifty years ago.
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