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||IMDB Rating: 6.9/10 from 1,287 votes
||Release: 8 September 1983 (Netherlands) /
||Genre: Drama, Romance
||Director: John Sayles,
||Stars: Betsy Julia Robinson, Chris Elliott, Jane Hallaren, Jesse Solomon, Jessica MacDonald, Jo Henderson, John Sayles, Jon DeVries, Linda Griffiths, Madelyn Coleman, Maggie Renzi, Marta Renzi, Nancy Mette, Robyn Reeves, Stephen Mendillo
||Synopsis: Lianna and her husband Dick have been married for a few years but the marriage isn't a happy one, since Dick treats her with arrogance. One day Lianna falls in love - with Ruth, a teacher. The people who know them act different: her husband with feelings of sexual betrayal, her children with curiosity and Lianna's friends with ambivalence. Written by Mattias Thuresson
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Watch Lianna - Alternative Versions.
A woman develops romantic feelings for her (female) child psychology
professor. A love affair ensues, and Lianna's life is
John Sayles' film is an attractive, well-made piece, perceptively
analysing character and relationships in the claustrophobic atmosphere of a
small-town college campus. The location looks like upstate New York
is a native of Schenectady).
Lianna Massey is in her 30's and she has allowed life to happen to
As a college student she drifted into a relationship with her teacher,
Dick. Now she is married to him and they have two children. We see her
doing the dull rounds, picking up the kids and waiting at the back of
class to give him a ride home. Alone after the students leave, Lianna and
Dick do not embrace. This is a loveless marriage. When Dick complains
about Lianna entering his class, she hits back with, "Afraid you'll let
see you playing husband?" We now have Dick's measure. He is a philanderer
who preys on undergraduates for sex.
Dick has exploited Lianna's passivity, shaping the marriage to his own
advantage. Even the children are named after his favourite movie stars
(Dick lectures in Film Studies). He attends campus parties alone,
that he has to be seen at these functions if he is to get tenure. In fact,
he is busy chasing student skirt. When Lianna shows up at one party
unannounced and sees him romping in the sand box, her last bond of loyalty
towards him is severed.
Ruth Brennan is an impressive woman. In her late 40's and a professor
of Child Psychology, she is bright, good-looking and stylish, with plenty
wisdom and poise. She teaches an evening class for campus moms, and this
where Lianna meets her. Drawn to the urbane, understanding Ruth, Lianna
makes clumsy attempts to ingratiate herself, offering to work as a research
assistant and compiling lists of children's literature.
While Dick is out of town attending the Toronto Film Festival, Lianna takes
the opportunity to have dinner at Ruth's place.
Ruth is an experienced lesbian, but Lianna is not yet even aware that
this is where the friendship is heading. As she prepares for the dinner
date, we see Lianna decide, on a whim, to go bra-less. Her feelings are as
yet inchoate, but we know that the relationship is about to become
The two women become lovers, but things do not work out as cosily as
the naive Lianna had expected. She burns her boats with Dick, who shows
that his hard intellect is coupled with a phenomenal mean streak. Lianna's
friend Sandy, uncomprehendingly conventional in her outlook, rejects her.
Even more ominously, Ruth proves to be an aloof, calculating lover. Lianna
is dismayed to find that she can't move in with Ruth, because it would
a scandal "here in faculty land". Suddenly Lianna is confronted with the
stark reality of her new situation: her children stay with Dick while she
has to find herself a job and a place to live. Ruth ends the research
assistant arrangement, saying that it is inappropriate for a bed partner to
be an employee. She asks Lianna not to call her by her first name in
Worse still, Lianna learns of "the woman back home", Ruth's long-standing
lover, who is still very much on the scene.
As the affair with Ruth fades and withers, Lianna has to feel her way
painfully towards a new life for herself. We see her alone in her empty
apartment, the plaintive whistle of the kettle representing the dull ache
her unhappiness. She has to cope with a dead-end job and brainless
colleagues, having forsaken the easy life of a faculty mom and the
wit of campus society. Her TV set becomes her life, the lame soap opera
dialogue echoing her words to Ruth. The girl in the launderette is reading
"The Well Of Loneliness". Lianna's meetings with her children are
for all concerned. Jerry the campus stud (played by Sayles) calls on the
company-starved Lianna. She is delighted to see him until she realises
he is a shark, trying to exploit her vulnerability. When he is rebuffed,
Jerry (typically) misses the point and rationalises it in self-referential
terms: "My technique must be getting ragged."
Early on in the affair, Ruth had taken Lianna to a gay bar. The
'naughtiness' and the excitement of it had been a liberating experience for
the Alberta girl. Now, she heads back to the bar merely to slough off her
loneliness. When she ends up in bed with Cindy of the Women's Air Corps,
Cindy points out that the two of them have little in common. "We have
enough," replies Lianna bleakly.
There are plenty of strikingly clever moments in this impressive film.
Sayles' crash-edited blackboard trick is memorable. Later, students try to
film a drinks party, and Sayles comments ironically on their attempt by
shooting the scene with a handheld camera. The dance show which Lianna
stage-manages is a neat dramatisation of her predicament, and the beautiful
Otis Redding music entirely apposite. The children are shown brilliantly
be 'in the middle' of the marriage breakdown as they sit on the sofa, eyes
darting back and forth between mom and dad, like tennis
The telephone is used cleverly to symbolise communication breakdown.
Dick slams the receiver down, signifying the death of the marriage, and
Lianna fails to get any answers as she phones out from her beleaguered
Tags for Lianna Full Movie
Betsy Julia Robinson
, Chris Elliott
, Jane Hallaren
, Jesse Solomon
, Jessica MacDonald
, Jo Henderson
, John Sayles
, Jon DeVries
, Linda Griffiths
, Madelyn Coleman
, Maggie Renzi
, Marta Renzi
, Nancy Mette
, Robyn Reeves
, Stephen Mendillo
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