Utilising a lot of the same cast members and the same essence of pure melodrama as Magnificent Obsession, from the previous year, Douglas Sirk delivers yet another wonderful tale of love, pain, and social etiquette with All That Heaven Allows.
Jane Wyman plays Cary Scott, a widow, who ends up falling in love with Ron Kirby (Rock Hudson), a gardener who doesn't seem to care about the same things as everyone else does. After a tentative start, both prepare to present themselves to Cary's adult children and her upper-class friends. Her children are immediately resentful, worrying about the loss of their family home and how their mother will be viewed. As for Cary's "friends", very few seem pleased with her choice.
Based upon a story by Edna L. Lee and Harry Lee, Peg Fenwick has crafted a script that easily sells the love between the two leads before starting to pile up the obstacles, and does so with a constant feeling of melancholy as opposed to misery, although that comes through more in the third act, thanks to the more pointed moments. Whatever is happening, be it happier times or despair, it all feels earned, thanks to the script and performances.
Hudson and Wyman are wonderful, and very easy to root for, and there are solid supporting turns from Agnes Moorehead, Conrad Nagel, Gloria Talbott and William Reynolds (as the daughter and son, respectively, of Cary), and Jacqueline deWit, particularly enjoyable as the nosiest and most gossipy member of the local community.
But this is a Sirk film before anything else, aided by gorgeous cinematography from Russell Metty and some more lovely music from Frank Skinner. It allows him to do what he does best, painting his tale with a gorgeous selection of colours and never once worrying about taking things too far in his attempts to wring every ounce of emotion or drama from a scene.
Much like his other films, viewers can easily decide to close themselves off to the pleasures of All That Heaven Allows. The cynical can see the strings being pulled, the film fan will already know how things are going to play out, and there's at least one too many convenient plot points. But to deny yourself the sheer pleasure of a Sirk melodrama is to deny the beauty and vibrancy that he gives to what should really be TV movie fare. And that is your loss.
This is another one available in this lovely set.
Americans have that Criterion edition available.