Ryan's Daughter (David Lean, 1970)

What's it about? It relocates the tale of Madame Bovary to the wild coast of County Kerry in 1916 and sees young Rosy Ryan (Sarah Miles) begin an affair with a British officer (Christopher Jones). Exception to this is taken by her husband (Robert Mitchum), her father (Leo McKern), her neighbours (including village idiot John Mills and priest Trevor Howard) and the local IRA, so the scene is set for a tragic love story.

Is it any good? Rather unfairly maligned on original release, this still does a fine job of balancing intimate and epic storylines and has much to admire, particularly the stunning visuals and Oscar-winnning cinematography. Mitchum and the British cast members deliver very commendable Irish accents and whilst the Oirish stereotypes are all present and correct, they're less irritating than usual, although Mills' performance has dated badly. Yes, it's about 53 hours long and never quite delivers the knockout emotional blow it promises, but there's an edginess to proceedings, presumably due in part to the strained production, which suits the story and keeps you involved.

Anything else I should know? All sorts of shenanigans went on during the production, which was scheduled to last 6 months and ended up over a year. Lean waited for almost the whole year for a suitable storm to brew up for the filming of a key sequence. Leo McKern probably wishes it hadn't, since he nearly drowned, lost his glass eye and was so shaken by the whole experience, he subsequently gave up acting for several years. Elsewhere, to pass the time, Mitchum planted marijuana in his garden and generously dispensed the drug to the grateful cast, crew and local police. Meanwhile, Jones was devastated by the news of former lover Sharon Tate's death, which meant he really did look the part of a shell-shocked soldier. Add to this on-set tensions, rows over the script's ending, multiple technical difficulties and the notoriously unpredictable Irish weather and it's a wonder the film got made at all.

What does the Fonz think? Overlong, but underrated.

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