A Soldier's Daughter Never Cries (1998)

Genres - Drama  |   Sub-Genres - Coming-of-Age, Family Drama  |   Release Date - Sep 18, 1998 (USA)  |   Run Time - 124 min.  |   Countries - United States  |   MPAA Rating - R
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Synopsis by Bhob Stewart

James Ivory directed this drama adapted from Kaylie Jones's 1990 autobiographical novel in which the character Bill Willis is based on her father, James Jones, author of From Here to Eternity and A Thin Red Line. Ruth Prawer Jhabvala's screenplay about expatriate Americans in Paris during the 1960s/1970s offers a portrait of a normal family (as opposed to the dysfunctional families of The Ice Storm and many other 1990s films), seen from the point of view of daughter Channe. Her father is Bill Willis (Kris Kristofferson), a successful novelist and WWII veteran who's married to enthusiastic poker-player Marcella (Barbara Hershey). Divided like the sections of a novel, the story's first chapter is titled, "Billy," in which French orphan Benoit (Samuel Gruen) is brought to the Willis household for adoption, while his unmarried biological mother (Virginie Ledoyen) writes about him in her diary. Six-year-old Benoit has been shipped through so many orphanages and foster homes that he doesn't unpack his suitcase. Benoit's presence prompts the young Channe (Luisa Conlon) to turn to her protective Portuguese nanny Candida (Dominique Blanc). After Benoit becomes acclimated to his new family, he asks that his name be changed to Billy. In the second segment "Francis" a strong friendship develops between Channe (Leelee Sobieski) and fatherless Francis Fortescue (Anthony Roth Costanzo). Obsessed with opera, Francis lives with his expatriate British mother (Jane Birkin). The family's French idyll is disrupted when Bill Willis plans a return to the United States because he wants American doctors to treat his bad heart. The closing act "Daddy" takes place in North Carolina during the 1970s as Bill's health worsens, Billy (Jesse Bradford) grows up, and an alienated Channe seeks acceptance through sex. A bedridden Bill dictates his fiction to Channe, who transcribes tapes and types his manuscript pages. During intimate conversations about boys and sex, Willis helps his daughter find her footing on the path of life. This movie arrived only 14 weeks prior to the release of Terrence Malick's 1998 adaptation of the elder Jones' The Thin Red Line. Shown at 1998 film fests (Venice, Toronto).




American [nationality], family, expatriate, France, daughter, father, mother, poker, veteran [military], writer, adoption, orphan, friendship, opera, disease, obsession, sex, slice-of-life, writing


High Production Values