Home Movies by Decade Movies - 1980s French Lieutenant’s Woman, The (1981)

French Lieutenant’s Woman, The (1981)

Lyme Regis, Dorset, 1867: Charles Smithson (Jeremy Irons), a Victorian gentleman recently engaged to the daughter of a wealthy businessman, is fascinated by the lonely figure of a woman at the end of the sea wall.

Haunted by this image, he discovers that she is Sarah Woodruff (Meryl Streep), a governess abandoned by her French lover and spurned by the locals.

They begin a passionate affair that dramatically alters their lives.

A second story (told in parallel) follows the relationship between the two film actors portraying the Victorian couple. The historic tale is often interrupted by the antics of the modern duo, which seem prosaic by comparison.

Director Karel Reisz and screenwriter Harold Pinter here successfully take on the near-impossible filming of John Fowles’s complex novel.

Irons and Streep feature in the dual roles. Streep’s impressive technical skills are on display as she transforms herself, complete with English accent, into the raven-haired pre-Raphaelite beauty of the title, the governess in Victorian England stranded between geologist Jeremy Irons and the memory of her vanished French officer lover.

frenchlieutenantswoman8Sarah Woodruff/Anna
Meryl Streep
Charles Smithson/Mike
Jeremy Irons
Sam
Hilton McRae
Dr Grogan
Leo McKern
Mary
Emily Morgan
Mrs Tranter
Charlotte Mitchell
Ernestina Freeman
Lynsey Baxter
Cook
Jean Faulds
Mr Freeman
Peter Vaughan
Vicar
Colin Jeavons
Mrs Fairley
Liz Smith
Mrs Poulteney
Patience Collier
Dairyman
John Barrett

Director
Karel Reisz

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