Girl with Green Eyes, The (1964): British Romance, Awkward but Tender, Superbly Acted by Rita Tashingham and Peter Finch

Intimate in scale yet true to its ambition, The Girl with the Green Eyes is a fresh, naturalistic British melodrama about the awkward but honest romance between a naive country girl and a sophisticated older man.

Grade: B+ (**** out of *****)

Girl with Green Eyes
Girlwithgreeneyes.jpg

Theatrical release poster

The acting of Rita Tashingham and Peter Finch is superb in this modest British film, directed by Desmond Davis, and based on a script by Edna O’Brien, who adapted her own novel, “The Lonely Girl.”

Tashingham plays Kate Brady, a young girl out of convent school, who moves out of her family home in the rural Irish countryside to big city of Dublin, where she works in a grocery shop and shares a room with friend and schoolmate Baba Brennan (Lynn Redgrave).

The girls go dancing at clubs and date young men they meet, but Baba is more socially adept than shy and introvert Kate.

On a ride to the countryside, the girls meet Eugene Gaillard (Finch), a sophisticated middle-aged author. Kate is immediately attracted to him, and when she runs into him in a Dublin bookshop, they begin to chat.

A friendship, and later a romantic relationship, develops between Kate and Eugene despite their age difference, her reluctance and inability to have sex with Eugene, and her discovery that he is married with a child, although separated from his wife who is in America.

When Kate’s father learns that his daughter is seeing a married man, he forces Kate to return to his rural home, but she runs away and returns to Eugene.

Kate’s father and his friends threaten Eugene at his home, but are driven off by his no-nonsense housekeeper Josie, who scares them away. Kate and Eugene finally consummate their relationship and she begins to mature as a woman.  Walking down the street, he buys her a ring, proposes to her, and they move in as a married couple.  While he sits at his typewriter writing, Kate wanders happily in the open fields.

She cooks for him, asks to be taken to church for mass (while he waits outside until it’s over), questions his lack of religious beliefs, which he handles sensitively, though doesn’t succumb to her.

Gradually, however, Kate becomes unhappy due to a series of obstacles: Eugene does not share her religious or moral convictions, his snobbish urban friends don’t take her seriously, and he continues to be in contact with his estranged wife.

Indeed, despite their bond, Kate still feels lonely, spending mot of her time by herself. Turning point occurs, when she opens his mail and finds a letter from his wife and airline ticket to the New Yok. On a rainy day, after yet another argument, she removes her wedding ring, seals it in an envelope, and leaves it for me at the club.

Kate finally leaves Eugene and returns to Baba, who is about to move to London. Waiting and waiting, her hopes that Eugene will ask her back fail, especially after Baba informs her that Eugene actually thinks that the breakup is a good idea (“older men and younger girls”?).

Kate departs for London with Baba by boat, wondering if she looks like “a woman with a past.” In voice over narration, she recalls the good moments and the notion that change is inevitable.  It is implied that she is strong and mature enough to gets over her heartbreak and meet different men.

Well-acted, tender and touching It’s a good companion piece to other films produced, directed or overseen by Richardson and his company, which also made “Saturday Night and Sunday Morning,” “A Taste of Honey,” and “Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner.”

Director Tony Richardson served as executive producer and his personal vision and stamp of his company, Woodfall Production, is manifest in the film’s tonal mood, visual style, and even music.

Desmond Davis, who made his directing debut with “Girl with Green Eyes,” later helmed The Uncle (1965), I Was Happy Here (1966), Smashing Time (1967), A Nice Girl Like Me (1969), Clash of the Titans (1981, his best known picture), The Sign of Four (1983), Camille (1984), and Ordeal by Innocence (1984).

Cast
Rita Tushingham as Kate Brady
Lynn Redgrave as Baba Brennan
Peter Finch as Eugene Gaillard
Marie Kean as Josie Hannigan
Arthur O’Sullivan as James Brady
Julian Glover as Malachi Sullivan
T. P. McKenna as The Priest
Lislott Goettinger as Joanna
Pat Laffan (as Patrick Laffan) as Bertie Counihan
Eileen Crowe as Mrs. Byrne
May Craig as Aunt
Joe Lynch as Andy Devlin
Yolande Turner as Mary Maguire
Harry Brogan as Jack Holland
Michael Hennessey as Davey
Joe O’Donnell as Patrick Devlin
Michael O’Briain as Lodger
David Kelly as Ticket Collector

Credits:

Directed by Desmond Davis
Produced by Oscar Lewenstein
Written by Edna O’Brien
Music by John Addison
Cinematography Manny Wynn
Edited by Brian Smedley-Aston

Production company: Woodfall Film Productions

Distributed by United Artists Corporation (UK)
Lopert Pictures Corporation (US)

Release date: May 14, 1964 (UK), August 10, 1964 (US)

Running time: 91 minutes