: : : Mrs. Soffel

Story

An air of gothic romanticism pervades every aspect of this remarkable film, based on a true story from the turn of the 20th century. In its torrid plot, one can hear the icy restraints of the Victorian era cracking. Diane Keaton is uncannily perfect as Kate Soffel, wife of a priggish prison warden (Edward Herrmann). She's funny and touching playing what used to be called a "neurasthenic"--a nervous, depressed woman with mysterious physical ailments. When the film opens, Kate is just recovering from a three-month-long spell, and back at work preaching to the inmates in her husband's prison. Whom should she encounter but dangerous death row inmate Ed Biddle, in the irresistible person of Mel Gibson. The forbidden affair that blossoms between them is feverishly exciting, but the film operates on myriad other levels. Director Gillian Armstrong (My Brilliant Career) and screenwriter Ron Nyswaner (Philadelphia) have much to say about capital punishment, and about the miserable fate of women in this repressive society who dare to act on their passions. There's nothing morally clear-cut in this movie, which is what makes it consistently fascinating. Kate and Ed's romance is as right as it is wrong; we never really know how to feel about either of them. The film's stunning cinematography and superb period details are exhilarating, from the towering, bleak beauty of the prison to the gorgeous panoramic chase scenes of horse-drawn sleighs in the snow. --Laura Mirsky

DVD Features

  • Color
  • Closed-captioned
  • Widescreen

Cast

Diane KeatonKate Soffel
Mel GibsonEd Biddle
Matthew ModineJack Biddle
Edward HerrmannWarden Peter Soffel
Trini AlvaradoIrene Soffel
Jennifer DundasMargaret Soffel
Terry O'QuinnDetective Buck McGovern
Maury ChaykinGuard Charlie Reynolds
Wayne RobsonHalliday

  • Genre: Drama Movies
  • Director: Gillian Armstrong
  • Producer: Warner Brothers
  • Length: 110 min
  • Aspect ratio: 1.85:1
  • Theatrical Release
    North AmericaDec 26, 1984
  • Ratings
    North AmericaPG-13
    EuropePG
  • DVD Release
    North AmericaJan 8, 2002
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