The Yearling, based on the award-winning novel by Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings, is a touching coming-of-age drama set in late nineteenth century rural Florida that explores difficult emotional issues within the context of a struggling frontier family's life. The naturalistic imagery, which underpins the growing drama of the storyline beautifully, is captured in magnificent Technicolor by Academy Award winning cinematographers Arthur Arling, Charles Rosher and Leonard Smith. The internal and external loyalties and relationships that pull and push young Jody (Claude Jarman Jr., who won an Academy Award) provide the story with its powerful conflicts. As we make allegiance with the sensitive child (and the faun) against his impoverished parents, our growing realization of the hopelessness of the situation and the ultimate importance of familial ties make for wrenching moments of self-awareness. Gregory Peck as the father is his typically sympathetic self, while Jane Wyman is coolly efficient and believable as Jody's mother. Director Clarence Brown knows how to push the audience's emotional buttons (it isn't all that hard, drawing on Rawlings' heartbreaking novel as his source), and the film teeters on the brink of sentimentality at times, but the honesty of the performances and the beauty of the photography procure a place for The Yearling in cinematic history. Nominated for seven Academy Awards, the film was winner of three.
by Dan Jardine review