review for I Walk the Line on AllMovie

I Walk the Line (1970)
by Craig Butler review

A moody, brooding, and haunting character study, I Walk the Line is far from perfect, but it's also a film that lingers in your memory long after you've finished viewing it. Not all of the pieces of Alvin Sargent's screenplay come together in the right way; there are lapses, segments that don't seem to fit in just right, and some of the plotting gets a little fuzzy. But there are also flashes of keen insight, moments that capture a crucial feeling or crystallize a character that are small gems. John Frankenheimer has directed with sensitivity and care, and there are some beautiful visual compositions; at times, the mere faces of the locals almost tell a story of their own. Frankenheimer's pacing is occasionally too deliberate, but the bigger problem is that he hasn't been able to draw the necessary performance from star Gregory Peck. Clearly, Peck was drawn to the role because of the ambiguities and complexities inherent in it, the aspects of it that make the character three dimensional. Yet Peck hasn't been able to really tune into those ambiguities and complexities; he knows they're there, but he hasn't found a way to make them personal and real, and as a result, he comes off as a bit too stiff and a little too remote. Fortunately, the rest of the cast does not have this problem. Tuesday Weld turns in a stunning, layered, dynamic performance, one which allows this talented actress to shine with a vibrancy and force that is a delight; her work here is a treasure. Also impressive are Ralph Meeker and Estelle Parsons, and Charles Durning's creepy deputy is worthy of a nod as well. Throw in some great Johnny Cash songs and Line ends up a flawed but fascinating film.