Following the critical disappointments of Jefferson in Paris (1995) and Surviving Picasso (1996), A Soldier's Daughter Never Cries (1998) represented a return to form for Merchant and Ivory. The film's material broke new ground for the team; while they had presented character studies of expatriates before, these portraits had never taken place in the 1960s and '70s. The emotional center of the film lies with the unconventional Willis family, introduced to the viewer by daughter Channe (Leelee Sobieski). Kris Kristofferson finds the perfect balance for Billy Willis, a kindly father with a few rough edges. He offers straightforward and practical advice to his children, even about sex; and it is this supportive, honest approach that binds the family together. Both Barbara Hershey, as Marcella, and Jesse Bradford, as Billy, deliver fine performances as the mother and adopted son of the Willis clan. A Soldier's Daughter Never Cries offers a positive portrait of how a family can survive crises and remain healthy; their shared experiences are the emotional glue that binds this somewhat loosely structured film. There are a number of sensitively played scenes, and the natural language of Ruth Prawer Jhabvala's screenplay works well for these. The only small glitch in the film involves failing to resolve a plot concerning Candida (Dominique Blanc), the Willis' housekeeper in the first two sections of the film. Bradford and Sobieski's performances would bring them to wider attention, while Merchant and Ivory would return to Victorian literary material in 2000 with The Golden Bowl.
by Ronnie D. Lankford, Jr. review