Seventh Heaven is proof that is drama from the age of silent film that can still be enjoyed and appreciated by modern audiences. The stylized acting that was required in pre-talkie films is often off-putting to those born after the end of the era, and sometimes with good reason. But the performances in Heaven, while still quite different from what evolved after The Jazz Singer, have a beauty and poetry to them that can be appreciated even by those who often laugh at the histrionics of silent actors. Janet Gaynor is simply entrancing; her Diane may seem like just another poor waif on the surface, but there are deep wells in her. The actress moves the audience quite unexpectedly, using her intensely downcast eyes to draw us in to the hopeless torment she feels. And when she is rescued and transformed, we share in her triumph and joy. Charles Farrell is perfectly cast as Chico, the sewer worker who comes to her aid and finds himself falling in love against his will. He, too, finds complexity in what could be a simple character, mixing conceit into his goodness and offering a portrait of a man who both can't believe his good fortune when he finds Diane and yet still feels perhaps he should deserve better. The stars are helped immensely by Frank Borzage's letter-perfect direction. Borzage believes so strongly in the power of romance that even the most cynical will buy into what in other hands would be hopelessly schmaltzy. With Borzage in charge, the result is a beautiful paean to the power of love.
by Craig Butler review