A Soldier's Daughter Never Cries (1998) Poster

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cyrus331399 October 2003
Warning: Spoilers
***May Contain Spoilers***

I'm still not sure if I liked this movie or not, but I definitely found its form interesting. I kept wondering throughout just where the heck this movie was going. It seemed to go off on various tangents, building mini-dramas, only to drop them at the last minute, leaving the viewer just hanging. At first it seemed to be building a story around little Billie's adoption then it backed away. Then it insinuated a drama based around Channe's encounter with the neighbor boy and then dropped it. It continued this pattern through Candida's relationship, Channe's early promiscuity, and Marcella's growing drinking problem. All leading up to Bill's death...which is treated in the same anti-dramatic style. It seems to me that the whole point of the movie was to experiment using an anti-dramatic form and style where very dramatic episodes are abandoned just before the viewer enters the realm of real feeling.
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A beautiful film.
moonlightreflections15 June 2000
"A Soldier's Daughter Never Cries" is a film which revolves around the proverbial institution known as family, but particularly, the relationship between a daughter and her father.

The film is divided into three separate sections: "Billy," which discusses the arrival of an adopted son into the family, "Francis," which revolves around the female protagonist, Channe's, best friend, and "Daddy."

In each of these categories, we are primarily subjected to the experiences of Channe, who is portrayed by the nubile, charismatic Leelee Sobieski. In them, we learn a little about her character, though strangely enough, not as much as we do about her father, whose unconditional positive regard for his daughter does much more than delineate the characteristics of the relationships among the members of the family.

The acting from the entire cast is superb, and from the actors' and actresses' demeanor emanates a very credible atmosphere. Yet the one element that truly grasped my attention was the editing, which with the exception of a couple of segments, added an extremely high element of poignancy to the story. James Ivory was obviously extremely assiduous with the film in this respect, and the final result consists of a strong narrative which appears somewhat terse, but knows exactly what quantity of what the viewer should be fed.

Cynical commentary has argued that this film is nothing short of tripe because it lacks a resolute motive--it consists of no conflict at all. All it is is disjointed scenes which serve no relevance to one another, and fail to tell a coherent story. The former statement in regards to the lack of conflict holds true, but the latter is what might be deemed questionable. Afterall, this is a story about the life of a family--and in a real family, few events from the past bear relevance to those of the present. "A Soldier's Daughter Never Cries" simply seeks to discuss the development of relationships in a family; events of high caliber are discussed thoroughly, while those of less importance portray to be all that they could ever be: memories.
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A writer's daughter can cry.
lib-419 October 1998
This is an sensitive exploration of the family and place. I noticed that Bill Willis was the only father in the picture, Billy and Francis did not have fathers. As a coming of age movie it really worked- for not only does Channe lose some of her innocence- it starts in the tree house- she also is able to accept her coming into adult status- as is evidenced by dumping the jock and losing some of her self-centeredness. I loved the character of Francis- boy/not sexually threatening- yet freeing for Channe by the fact of his flamboyance. Most of the parts of this movie fit together well- there is enough dichotomy- the mother can throw sand in the sadistic teacher's face, but she also crumbles at the death of an unborn child. Like us the characters are both strong and weak. At first I was bothered by the lack of reference to Vietnam- then I realized neither Billy nor Channe would be that affected like those of us who lived through that period. Most of all, Soldier's Daughter moved me to thinking how parents really influence their children. Any movie that foregoes bombs for thought is tops in my book.
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you won´t cry either
Cherubin24 June 2001
"A Soldier´s Daughter Never Cries" is the kind of movie that, in spite of American production, feels very European. American movies tend to be sentimental with plenty of scenes specifically calculated to make viewers get teary eyed. European movies, though, usually opt for a more naturalistic approach that refuses to wallow in emotions. In the case of "Soldier´s Daughter", this characteristic can be both good and bad. It is good in the sense that the movie seems more realistic because one must admit that in real life, melodramatic conduct is not too common. Emotions seem to be hidden rather than absent and they actually do appear in small explosions like in the somewhat odd outbursts of the mother towards the end. Emotions also seem to be behind the strange behavior of the characters (e.g. the maid scrubbing the floor at midnight after breaking up with her lover or Billy acting antisocial to make up for his feelings of resentment). Howwever, there are quite a few scenes which should have been emotionally powerful but aren´t. A good dose of American sentiment could have made a difference. For example, in the one scene where Channe finally starts crying (the title of the movie is a saying her father keeps quoting at her), I understood the place of it in the plot but was not touched by it. When Francis, heartbroken, says goodbye to Channe after telling her his secret, the situation should have been heartrending but it also left me feeling hollow - and this in spite of the fact that Francis, an effeminate heterosexual, was probably the film´s most fascinating character. Furthermore, the parents´ understated reactions often make it seem that they do not really love or care about their children the way everyone keeps insisting they do (is that a possible hidden meaning ?).

Otherwise, the movie is fine in the sense that it is intelligently written. Not only is it based on a novel but it feels as if it WAS a novel rather than a movie. The family is portrayed quite realistically. Even though the film does not seem to try to be artistic, it is lyrical enough to be seen as art.
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A really original introspective about complex relationships.
shanfloyd29 June 2006
"A soldier's daughter never cries" by James Ivory presents us with an interesting story about fine aspects of human relationships with really impressive acting. The film is divided into three segments - "Billy", "Francis" and "Daddy". Each containing the protagonist Channe's experiences with three men in her life - her adopted brother, her school friend and her father respectively. The film shows how these experiences let her become gradually mature... emotionally, sexually and also in terms of personality.

Acting is exceptional in this film. The first segment shows the time right after the brother, Billy, being adopted when he was 7 years old. Channe was also 7 at that time and the child actress who played her (Luisa Conlon) really deserves our praise. In the next two segments Channe (14 and 17 yrs respectively) was brilliantly portrayed by Leelee Sobeiski who is much responsible for the rather reserved nature of the character. Kris Kristofferson does a solid job as the father. His character is an unique one, as evident not only by the words he spoke, but also by Kristofferson's accent and expressions. Among the other actors Jesse Bradford is worth mentioning as Billy is last two segments. The actor who played Francis in "Francis" brings too much dramatic persona in my opinion. Though arguably that's one of the best things about the character. And there's also a nice extended cameo by Virginie Lledoyen as Billy's biological mother.

Now about the characters and screenplay. Though stated from Channe's point of view, her father is the major influential character in this film. It was always his decisions, his outlook towards life that affected his family. The character of Channe is somehow very interesting. Her experiences with womanhood and men are written in an unique manner. And how she develops into a warm, soft-spoken yet determined personality is clearly something that Ivory spent time on. On the other hand Billy is a rather shy and quite unimpressive character with no apparent personal feature that should be rendered as a quality. Now Channe's school friend Francis has all the unusual features - he's an opera singer, loves to dance puppets, has a really corky sense of humor and his mother is an existentialist. His relationship with Channe is one of the film's major assets. All the characters are quite multi-layered, even Billy. The script is also masterfully written. A nice example is the conversation between Channe's father and her High School boyfriend Keith. I don't understand French that well so can't comment about the French dialogues though.

Actually, it is a film that is bound to be enjoyed if seen in a special mood. I'm lucky that I had that mood when it was showing on TV. Also it is a film that grows wonderfully with time, segment after segment. It's a really good coming-of-age story that should be considered as Ivory's one of the best works.
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This movie was great!
VivFan18 April 1999
This movie was one of the best that I have ever seen! It is one of the few foreign/drama films that has not bored me. It seemed like the movie would never end, but it was so brilliant I didn't want it to end. I have not watched a drama so good since Terms of Endearment. I highly recommend it.
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Enjoyable, Rambling Story With "True Life" Feel
RJK-821 March 2000
We got this video from library without knowing anything about it, except for the good reputations of the actors & director. The story rambles along following the lives of a young American girl & family living in Paris -- their adoption of a French boy, and how their lives change as the two grow up, eventually moving to North Carolina. The acting is good, and the story details are fascinating and off-beat (her teenage boy friend who sings great soprano opera, for example). Perhaps the father is too good to believe (from a kid's point of view) but it's a warm story that just kind of ends after the father dies. I can see why it might not be hugely popular, but it provides much food for thought and discussion within families as to choices, values, etc. Another plus - great location photography.
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Summary of film misleadingly off-center.
bex4317 October 2004
Let the cyber reader beware! Reading the summary as well as the first User Comment about this movie, "A Soldier's Daughter Never Cries, which I viewed recently [2004], stunned a 4-letter word out of my mouth. These two viewers seem blissfully unaware of any knowledge of James Jones or his times. Nor do they show even a basic appreciation for film or narrative methods. If they cannot support their assertions about the film--that it is "emotionless" for instance--with some reference to accepted standards of drama or acting, we must assume that they know no better. My question is this: why does such an important site for movie-lovers accept such limited summations of films to remain on the site?
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True-to life...
ctodd100025 November 2003
So true to life it made me cry. Exactly how I grew up, "expatriate" and all. The acting and direction and locations were perfect in every way, and this film takes a number of viewings to "see it all." Excellent recommendations all around.
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A soldier's daughter would cry if she was forced to watch this pointless film.
childintime-127 June 2005
I guess this was supposed to be some attempt to portray the relationships between a family faced with much adversity, but it feels like it was written and directed by people who have no clue of what that might mean or how it should be portrayed. The film has no context whatsoever, and there is no continuity from start to finish. There are no consequences for any of the actions.

The family is devoid of morals or values, and yet they lead an idyllic existence. There is little or no emotion between them, yet we are asked to believe that they are as close and loving a family as ever lived. The two children evolve into teenagers that assume the usual bad habits and make the usual bad choices, but there is never any crisis ensuing, and all is forgiven because nothing is really wrong.

Every character that impacts on their lives seems construed to be as unlikely as people can be, and yet there are so many of them in this one story. And then they just disappear from the scenery as implausibly as they entered.

The persistent introduction of totally unnecessary episodes of menstruation, gratuitous sex, birth control, intoxication, etc., etc., is simply irritating. Kris Kristofferson shows once again that Dolf Lundgren is not the worst actor in film history.

As for a theme or moral, good luck finding it. But then, I met a girl once who said she could dance to Pink Floyd'd music, so maybe...

Watching this film made me feel like I had just been to the finest restaurant in France only to find out that there is nothing to be served, but the chef then describes in great detail how good the food might have been.
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It's the best movie I've seen in some time.
bcs424 October 2007
I'm not sure how this movie could have been better acted, directed or written, and the soundtrack was excellent. Where has this thing been? The reality of the characters, their motivations.. they were absolutely spot on. There seemed to be a great chemistry between everyone involved, It would be hard to believe they didn't all feel something very special as it was being filmed. I instinctively want to pick out specific actor's performances, but it would be unfair to the rest of the cast because they were all so very strong and real. Very understated, I hope you're as surprised as I was. It's one of those films you could just slip into. If anyone involved ever reads this, thanks.
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maybe crying would help
rduchmann31 May 2000
Daughter of famous WW 2 novelist (James Jones, though not called by that name), grows up in Paris and matures in 70s USA. OK cast, good performances (Sobieski is just fine here), even has subtitles for French dialogue during the Parisian sequences, but distinctly a case of so what? This goes on for hours and never gets to any point except that the daughter eventually writes a novel about her own life. I think I'm happy I didn't read it; I wish I could say I'd also missed the film.
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A slice of life in an understanding, loving family.
Tom Murray29 April 2006
A thoroughly gripping family drama by the Merchant-Ivory team. An American writer, Bill Willis, and his wife, Marcella, and daughter, Channe (Leelee Sobieski in her debut), live in Paris in the 1960's & 70s. In a role-reversal, the mother is weak and has difficulty communicating with her children, whereas the father is understanding and approachable. They adopt a boy from his mother, not quite legally.

Channe's best friend is an impetuous, rebellious and arrogant boy soprano, Francis Fortescue, who aspires to be an opera singer; his character brings originality to the film. Years later the family moves back to the USA and the children have great difficulty adapting to the new cultural environment. There is little plot, just a slice of life in an understanding, loving family. These are wonderfully developed characters that one can really care about.
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What a Waste of Time
cshawsta8423 May 1999
The movie started out a bit promising but sank after the opening scene. Who are these people and why do we care about them? The character development was so poor that I never felt like I knew who these people were. And if I have to watch another movie with Kris Kristofferson croaking one dimensionally through another movie, I will give up watching movies. He has no no emotional range whatsoever, which considering he is a main character is a major major flaw of this movie.

The plot holes are huge. Why take the time to develop the Nanny,her realtionship to the kids, her romance and then once in America never heard or mentioned again. What happened to her? Same for Francis. All that film time and then there was no goodbye, no letters . No mention again. What happened to him?

And if we knew anything about the daughter with all the supposed development of her childhood etc, why on earth does she out of no where start sleeping with anyone who will drop his pants. And that scene where the father has the boyfriend sleep over was absolutely laughable it was so bad.

The father dies and yet there is no funeral, no goodbye, no closure: cut next scene mother getting hammered again, brother moping around depressed. Mother hoisting that diary at her son who doesn't want to read it right after the father dies. Why? Why then?

This is the problem with the whole movie. A lot of things happen but because we don't know the characters. The screenplay has so many holes we never really know anything at all. It all becomes very disjointed and by the end I was laughing it was so bad. 2 stars and please no more Kristofferson(reminds me of John Wayne and Robert Mitchem, both who couldn't act or emote either)
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Such a bad film
lilpest918 May 2016
This movie is crap. The characters are boring and unlikable, the scenes make no sense and are of little impact on following scenes, and everything that happens is really stupid. The daughter is a whore. It's supposed to have some stuff with her father really loving her but he doesn't care she's such a whore(he's okay with/encourages it) so he obviously doesn't love her. The acting is as bad as the writing. None of the characters seem to have any emotion. You want to make some kind of emotional artsy film you should get people who can act. Nothing in this film seems to have any point at all. Maybe that was the goal, to make a film so stupid and boring and pointless as to push you into nihilism.
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Can you say "Z-z-z" en Francais?
Carlito-727 September 1998
A total bore. Starts well, with a French boy being adopted into the household of an expatriate American novelist and his family, and the conflict this creates with his daughter, who's about the same age. Then, after about 15-20 minutes, all tension in the film just drains away. Sitting through the last 1/2 hour of this was the toughest stretch of time I've spent in a theater in the last year. A movie so tasteful and well-mannered you'll want to scream.
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Why was this movie made?
leo-338 October 1998
I didn't care about any of the characters. They all seemed to be acting. No one was convincing. It started out like it was going some place but never got anywhere.
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Coming of age in France and America
Geordie-415 April 2000
I read the reviews that people gave of this movie and I don't understand why they wanted so much character development and resolution. I thought that the characters were fine. They were a little underdeveloped but they seemed alright. I think that people didn't like the slowness of the movie perhaps. I thought that the slowness of the movie was its strength. I didn't mind that things were left unresolved. I would rather have a movie that leaves some things unanswered than answers all the questions. I thought it was a great movie. It wasn't too flashy or anything, quite simple, well edited, and it allowed the characters to breathe and be themselves. I thought it was wonderful for that. The characters were very natural and just were themselves which I enjoyed. I'd recommend this to anyone who wants a movie which might provoke a little discussion about parents and the relationships within a family. I thought the relationships within the family were nice and appropriately complex while at the same time sometimes unexamined, which is a lot like life I think. Well, I would thoroughly recommend this movie to anyone. It is a sedate and quiet and really feels like a French movie.
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Emotions as fact, not feelings
gromit-1410 April 2000
I was disappointed in this movie, because I thought it had great potential: Merchant/Ivory, good cast and so on. The film suffers from dealing with too broad a sweep of time. Having to cover so many incidents in the life of one family, one gets a series of incomplete gesture drawings instead of a rich oil painting focussed on one or two subjects.

I found that the characters never engaged me emotionally. The film never really let me into their world so that I really cared about them and what happened to them. So many plot threads were left undeveloped, and most of the emotionally engaging scenes of conflict were left out of the script. As an example, as Charlotte-Anne (Leelee Sobieski) develops into a young woman, she is frustrated as the family housekeeper/nanny continues to come into her room without knocking. The first time it happens, she yells at the nanny. Later in the film, she talks to her father about what is apparently a continuing problem. But we never get the logical scene where Charlotte-Anne confronts her nanny (which could have been played so many ways, and given such shading to Sobieski's character). Then, this thread with the nanny is simply left hanging.

Emotions are stated as facts, they aren't really experienced in this film.
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Disappointing film
correar1 August 1999
A promising but very disappointing film. More than a bad film it is a film "maladroit". Jane Birkin and Virginie Ledoyen are wonderful actresses but the Director treats them badly. The maid Dominique Blanc speaks Portuguese with an accent when it would be easy to find a portuguese for the role.

There are beautiful images of Paris and America but they are not enough to save the film.
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Honest depiction spoiled by hero worship
DFC-226 April 1999
Not a great movie, but it does succeed in presenting realistic episodes and an interesting family life. The characters are ennobled by a film which doesn't make them out to be more or less than human. The only downside to me was that the father always knew best and never faltered in the face of adversity. It would have been nice to see his vulnerabilities along with those of his family.
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Human interest about joy and heart break in a family.
acearms2 November 2003
Based on a true story, this one tugs at your heart strings. The acting was superb and the actors played their characters well. Kris was outstanding as the author/father. Leelee was easy to watch and Jesse played his part believably well. The story revolved around Channe, played by Leelee, as she grew from a child into a young woman. Bradford was the adopted brother, sullen and quite, but who had a deep love for his family and sister. It was a movie easy to follow, easy to watch and be caught up in. Family, Love, Friendship, and, in the end, the finality of death come across. A must see.
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I cried to tears!!
Woosler_Girl27 September 2003
I saw this movie with my mom. We have a special connection when it comes to movies! First, I didn't think that I would like it. 'A Soldiers Daughter Never Cries' It sounds a bit like a war-movie, but it isn't! Not at all! I really like the special relationships they have in the movie. They are so close! The movie contains romance, comedy, drama, and heart-braking scenes! I wouldn't recommend it for the typical guy-type. It's too mushy-mushy. But for all the girls (or some of them :P) I REALLY recommend it! And the hot Jesse Bradford is doing really well in this movie! :) I give 5 ***** out of 6 ******, because it's not new, because there appears some french and because of unknown actors (for my well known!)
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Unconventional family, good movie.
TxMike9 June 2002
Kris Kristofferson is really good as the father, the military man, and eventually the author. The title comes from his habit of telling his daughter, Channe (Leelee Sobieski) that "a soldier's daughter never cries." The last time he says that, as she is typing at his hospital bedside, she says, "You're not a soldier anymore, you're an author."

He and family had been stationed in France for a long while, and the children grew up there. He moved to the USA when they were teenagers, they had difficulty adjusting to the American school and way of life. The family handled the issue of sex in an unconventional manner. Dad figured "they're going to do it anyway, so I'd rather have them in my house, in the bedroom, instead of the back seat of a car somewhere." The boyfriend was quite surprised, to say the least.

Dad died, brother came to accept the fact that his real mother did not really abandon him when she was only 15, the whole family united an memory of dad.
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A very enjoyable coming of age drama
sloppydisk26 April 2002
I just saw this film at Roger Ebert's 4th annual Overlooked Film

Festival and I was thoroughly charmed by it, despite numerous projection difficulties at this particular screening. Its poignant

without being oversentimental and also funny and engaging

throughout. I'd recommend it highly.
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