All That Heaven Allows

All That Heaven Allows ★★★★★

Now THAT was what a romance should be! Compelling, complex, emotional, engaging, filled with beautiful fur coats, winter scenes, and even a pet deer. Also, an old mill gets turned into a mid-century woodsman's dream house - how have I not seen this before?!

And damn! does Sirk ever nail the arc of female individuation! His portrait of Cary (Jane Wyman, warm with feminine strength and uncertainty), is of a widowed woman on the brink of spiritual death - her home is like a memorial to a past life, one she is no longer living for herself but only maintaining for others. She lives in the coffin of her marriage, with a community and two children desperate to keep her there, her social group fearing her stepping away from and devaluing their social hierarchy, her children desperate to maintain themselves as the bearers of the future and their mother as the keeper of the past. To the people around her, Cary as an Individual is in a state of decay - her presence is purely functional, a mainstay mechanism in their social clockwork. Cary has no time of her own - she's only there to keep time for others.

Cary's pulseless existence is juxtaposed with the grounded assertiveness of Ron. Hudson is convincing as the woodsy hottie with a core of values built by hard won recognition and honed by daily commitment. His love for Cary feels timeless - if she cannot become the individual her sees within her, Ron will always love her and knows he will never reach the full potential of his own individualisation without her. His future is his own, always will be, and he will live a quiet life of self sustained fulfilment, but he will never be complete. He needs her to stand by his side as an individual built by will and love if he is to fully do the same. Sometimes one can only become an individual when completed by another's earned strength.
5 fuckin stars!

Claire liked these reviews