All That Heaven Allows ★★★★½

Perhaps if not for Vertigo, the most lustrous, painterly and vibrant coating ever donned by a piece of cinematic art. Coating, which in typical Sirkian fashion, functions primarily as a veneer, shrouding snide societal customs in an autumnal bouquet of splendour and sybaritic soirees. Yet, aesthetic deceptiveness aside, much of what is presented is for the most part quite obvious in terms of theme. The central pairing, played to a tee by both respective actors, are often caught voicing their inner frustrations at the rigid and arbitrary sense of societal judgment plaguing their relations. Moreover, characters, family not excluded, actively voice their dissent at how unbecoming it is for a woman of such high repute to engage so intimately with a man of such meagre status. It's all quite, explicit, one could say, especially considering how strictly Sirk demarcates good and evil. Upper class gatherings being nothing more than gossiping hellholes, comprised of ingratiating and haughty higher ups, whilst rural rendezvous seem to be purely idyllic and inclusive, replete with denizens of veritable sincerity and heartiness. Yet despite broad class characterisations and what appear to be only surface level ideas, there is still something so utterly entrancing in the actual execution, with certain glances and reflections communicating more than any overt theme could possibly muster. In many ways, it, like all of Sirk's best works, is a film which both shows and obscures, drawing stern social criticisms, yet helming them in a parade of smoke and mirrors. With an ending so blissful and cathartic, that one can't help but feel it too, to be all part of the act.