Drama1981-1990Fred SchepisiUnited Kingdom

Fred Schepisi – Plenty (1985)

Susan Traherne (Meryl Streep) is a young woman who, during World War II, joins the provincial French Resistance as an undercover British agent. The highlight of her time in France is a night of passion with another agent, codenamed Lazar (Sam Neill), who briefly passes through her sector.

As she struggles to adjust to life in Britain after the war and a series of unsatisfying conventional jobs, Susan looks back with growing nostalgia to her wartime experiences. Her behaviour becomes increasingly erratic and self-destructive, and even the support of her diplomat husband (Charles Dance) and a close friend (Tracey Ullman) fail to prevent her slow unravelling.

Meanwhile, Britain’s decline over the postwar period as it adapts in purely superficial ways to a changing world parallels that of Susan, and feeds into her despair. Only through a radical upheaval, Susan comes to feel, can she recapture the vitality and glamour of her wartime youth…

Plenty is endowed with a great cast (apart from the leads, John Gielgud, Sting, and Ian McKellen figure in small but important parts), astute directing by Fred Schepisi, and an intelligent script from British playwright David Hare adapted from his play of the same name. Despite all this, it’s sunk into oblivion after getting a lukewarm reception at best when it first came out, for reasons I’ve never quite understood.

I liked it a lot then, and still do on revisiting it decades later. There’s a spikiness and an awareness of the social and political context of the times it portrays that’s never intrusive, but that combined with a tough storyline make it quite compelling. Perhaps it failed with the critics and the public because it subverts the expectations set up in the romantic tropes of its opening, and because of its polemic undercurrent. Even so, this undervalued film stands out – aided by Streep’s magnetic performance – just because of this provocativeness. It’s definitely worth careful viewing.

3.37GB | 2h 04m | 1024×436 | mkv



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