Monday, April 11, 2005

Pauline Kael

“[Molly is] polite, well-bred….

“…. [W]e feel [Diana's] horror at being trapped. Yet she's ladylike and stiff when she's taken in for interrogation; her thick, curly dark hair is neat, her jaw set, her mouth firmly lipsticked. The daughter is just about the opposite. Molly, as Jodhi May plays her, is undefined in a lovely, almost plain, yet softly glowing way--like the young Peggy Ann Garner in Jany Eyre and A Tree Grows in Brooklyn. Molly has been raised to respect blacks, and she's sensitive enough to appreciate what she has taken in from her parents. She has an eager mind, and we get glimpses of what she learns, what she thinks. Menges, with his camera, is her co-conspirator: he peeks into things, he's open to moments of revelation. She's his fresh, young pair of eyes, looking at Yvonne's buxom blond mother, who's all kissy-kissy, and seeing that woman is good-hearted but weak, and afraid of her husband. And the camera records Molly's perception of the ugliness of apartheid. She wants to join in the fight against it, yet that fight is also her competitor. In prison or out, her mother is not all there for her. When Molly need her mom, she bashes her head against a principled person. The teme of the movie is the conflict between fighting injustice and what we owe to our families--or, more poignantly, a young girl's pain at the loss of her mother and father, though she knows the reasons for it.

“Jodhi May's performance seems just about faultless--never precocious, never forced. Molly is a kid who's required to grow up fast, and has a rough time of it, but her difficulties never go out of scale. And Barbara Hershey does well by the British-South African accent and gives a creditable, honorable performance. If something is missing from what she does, it may be partly because Menges looks at Diana as if she were a person in a documentary….”

Pauline Kael
The New Yorker, June 14 ?, 1988
Hooked, pp 475-477

Stanley Kauffmann

"Almost everything in the making of the film is extraordinarily good . . . . [get review; don't know what I'm leaving out] . . . . [T]he welcome surprise is that Menges has concentrated on the acting--with fine results. It's all solid, confident, strong. . . .

“Jodhi May, the English girl who plays Molly, is irresistible, almost precisely because she seems so resistible at first. Not only is she not particularly pretty, her feature lack distinction; she is slightly round-shouldered, and she is given a real mixing-bowl haircut. These very matters become endearing before long, become essential to the Molly that she believes in and creates. The adolescent still has some of the overt dependencies of a child (soon to become covert), and she has enough intelligence to know that her demands are childish even though she can't help making them. As Diana's political convictions lead to separation from her family, Molly begins to resent her mother's choices: to the daughter, those choices imply more concern with activism than with family, a willingness to be separated from them. May gives these angers full body and, with Menges's help, also gives us the blossoming adult beneath them who understands her mother's courage.

“The fate of gifted adolescent actors is even more unpredictable than that of gifted adults. Whatever became, for instance, of the marvelous Patricia Gozzi who was in Sundays and Cybele and Rapture in the early 1960s? I hope that, 20 years from now, the same question won't be asked about Jodhi May.”

Stanley Kauffmann
New Republic, July 18 & 25, 1988
[Unless, of course, May’s happily withdrawn from public life by then.]