- Movie Rating -

The Lonely Passion of Judith Hearne (1987)

| December 23, 1987

Maggie Smith seems to occupy every role with dignity, refinement and with a certain charm.  In  The Lonely Passion of Judith Hearne she displays a vulnerability that surprised me.  She plays Judith, a homely spinster in her late forties who is respected in her Irish community but has arrived at the point in her life where she is becoming desperate to find some form of happiness.  In her sad eyes we sense that she has been burned emotionally, that she has suffered disappointments over and over and over.

Her comfort is the bottle.  She is a drunk who washes away her pain in a flood of alcohol. It is a routine that has gone on for years and years until it had become like a reflex.  She is lonely, she doesn’t seem to have any friends and what little family she connects with does so with tolerance.  She dreams of one day finding some semblance of love, of finding a man who will save her from a life of loneliness.

A brief moment of what seems to be happiness washes in. She meets James (Bob Hoskins), the brother of her landlady who has just returned to Dublin from a trip to New York City and they have breakfast together. The following Sunday he escorts her to church and afterwards he asks her to dinner and to a picture show. Judith’s is overwhelmed beyond words, she is delighted that he asked and he seems to be so happy that she has accepted. There is a certain joy that fills Judith’s heart because he seems so genuine and approaches her with the tenderness of a schoolboy.

James is not, alas, all that he seems.  It isn’t long before she discovers that he thinks she has money.  He is interested in setting up a hot-dog stand and wants the money that he has heard that she has stowed away.  When Judith learns of his deception, she is devastated but there’s a hint in her demeanor that suggests that she’s been through all this before.  She is disappointed and so are we because he seems so warm, so affectionate that we wanted it to work out.

Smith has two scenes in particular that are beautifully handled.  One comes after a disappointment when she walks into her closet to retrieve a bottle and starts drinking.  There’s a hint in her body language that suggests that this is a long-held routine and as she gets drunk and sings to herself there’s a brief happiness that we know will soon wash away.  The other scene is a devastating moment takes place when she visits the parish priest (Alan Radcliffe, father of Daniel) and asks about the validity of God.  The priest is outraged at her blasphemy.  There is a look on her face that suggests that she is completely serious, like a frightened child who needs some sense of reassurance.

The final passages of The Lonely Passion of Judith Hearne seem somewhat victorious.  We are led to believe that Judith getting a handle on her life, that she will pull through and find the happiness she seeks.  For me, it is a false hope.  Life has taught Judith that her life is an ongoing list of disappointment and false hope and when I see her happy at the end, I know it won’t last

About the Author:

Jerry Roberts is a film critic and operator of two websites, Armchair Cinema and Armchair Oscars.
(1987) View IMDB Filed in: Drama