What You Need To Know:
A SOLDIER'S DAUGHTER NEVER CRIES is a slow-moving character study of an American novelist's secular family living in France. The family adopts a French boy and moves to the United States, where they suffer heartache when the children fail to fit and the beloved father takes ill. At times uplifting because of the love the family shares, the movie is morally flawed because the family takes a pagan view about the daughter's sexual behavior.
(Pa, B, Ab, LLL, V, SS, AA, D, Ho) Pagan worldview with a few biblical & moral elements such as one prayer & several mentions of God, but also one anti-religious statement about church leaders; 13 obscenities, 16 profanities & 8 vulgarities; teenager punches other teen in face to knock him down, two scenes of children fighting & Salome in opera kisses head of John the Baptist; implied fornication is encouraged & boy tries to seduce & rape little girl; alcohol use; scene of radical 1960s staging of famous opera features cocaine snorting & use of needle; and, homosexual implications in opera & effeminate character hints at homosexual subtext in movie.
Even non-religious people and outright pagans can know the value of the loving bonds of family ties. Such is the conclusion you may derive from watching A SOLDIER’S DAUGHTER NEVER CRIES, a slow-moving character study of an American novelist’s secular family living in France.
Based on the life of James Jones, author of FROM HERE TO ETERNITY and THE THIN RED LINE, the movie details what happens when Bill and Marcella Willis adopt a raven-haired French boy in the 1960s. Renamed Billy, the boy at first doesn’t get along with their young daughter Channe, but Channe is soon sticking up for her brother when he gets in trouble at school. Several years later, Channe makes friends with a budding opera singer, a young effeminate American who falls in love with her. Eventually, however, the family moves to the United States, where they suffer heartache when the children fail to fit in at high school, and the beloved father takes ill.
At times uplifting because of the love and strong, positive bonds that the family clearly shares, this movie is morally flawed for several reasons. First, the movie has a sexually disturbing, gratuitous scene about a boy who tries to rape Channe. Happily, she escapes. Secondly, the father uses strong obscenities and profanities several times during the movie. He also makes a bigoted generalization about Christianity at one point, undercutting the nanny’s references to God in the movie and an important reference to prayer at the beginning and ending. Finally, the family takes a pagan view about the daughter’s sexual behavior. The father allows her to sleep with her boyfriend in his house because “they’re gonna do it anyway,” and he would rather they do it at home rather than in a car.
A SOLDIER’S DAUGHTER NEVER CRIES features strong performances by all four main actors, Kris Kristofferson and Barbara Hershey as the father and mother, Leelee Sobieski as the elder Channe, and Jesse Bradford as the elder Billy. Despite this, the screenplay by James Ivory and Ruth Prawer Jhabvala fails to make the characters’ emotional and intellectual development as dramatically compelling as it should. The script, for instance, never really reveals the inner workings of Channe or Billy’s character, especially when Billy becomes withdrawn after moving to the U.S., and when Channe merely mentions her desire to go to college without talking about her probable goal of becoming a writer like her dad.
What does come across in this movie, however, is the love between the father and his family. The last third of A SOLDIER’S DAUGHTER NEVER CRIES is in fact titled, simply, “Daddy.” One of the most moving scenes in the movie occurs in this section. In the scene, Channe has a brief, important discussion with her father in the hospital, while she types his latest novel. When Channe starts crying, her father starts to remind her of the phrase he has always taught her, “A soldier’s daughter never cries,” but Channe reminds him that she’s a writer’s daughter, not a soldier’s daughter. “That’s okay,” he tells her. “They cry all the time.” The audience will clearly feel the pain of this family over the father’s illness, but moral people will find the family, and the movie’s, approach to sexuality too offensive and, using today’s politically correct terms, “inappropriate.”