Monthly Archives: January 1983

LIANNA

Writer-director-editor John Sayles takes a thoughtful and (mostly) intelligent approach to the subject of one woman’s self-discovery, treading in difficult waters, with refreshingly honest results. The film concerns Lianna (Linda Griffiths), a mother of two who is married to a cinema professor with the appropriate name of Dick (Jon DeVries). He inspires awe (and, it’s implied, other feelings) in his female students, while awaiting tenure (he’s competing with a documentary teacher played by Sayles himself). She, meanwhile, takes night classes from Ruth (Jane Hallaren), and begins to form a little crush on her. This crush soon turns to revelation as Lianna discovers that she doesn’t just love Ruth, but has been a lesbian since she was a teenager (at least). This is a film about a woman in a whirl of self-discovery, exploring a new way of being and having to face the reactions of the world around her. The performances are solid (especially Griffiths’), the story involving, and the characters (mostly) sympathetic. Sayles, an independent film icon whose previous work includes “Return of the Secaucus Seven” (1980) and “Baby, It’s You” (1982), has a good ear for dialogue, and can explore a difficult subject sensitively. I had two brief qualms with this film, however: First, Lianna and Ruth go to a lesbian bar and as the evening progresses, the music becomes pointedly “about” Lianna’s new feelings. Too on-the-nose, with too much time spent on it to boot; as an editor, Sayles ought to have known better. Immediately following the eventual end of this scene, we have Lianna walking down the street, staring at every woman she sees with a new perspective on her own sexuality – some appear to be flirting as well, some are oblivious. I get the point that Lianna is reveling in a new-found freedom and the ability to be herself (or new self), but I didn’t care for the way this was done. Still, for an early effort, this is a fine piece of work. NOTE: Sayles would go on to write and direct better films, often employing large canvases and big ensemble casts, such as “City of Hope” (1991), “Passion Fish” (1992), “Lone Star” (1996), “Sunshine State” (2002) and “Silver City” (2004).

Leave a comment

Filed under 1983