Although the treatment of the material shows the restraint and sensitive handling dictated by the era in which it was made, this Douglas Sirk movie is yet another timeless classic that focuses on love and infatuation, and shows how these things can be damaged or nurtured, depending on the circumstances.
Fred MacMurray plays Clifford Groves, a toymaker who is blessed with a lovely wife (Joan Bennett) and children who seem to be turning into fine young adults. Clifford is content, and his family are in that happy space which leads to them taking a lot of their situation for granted. Things start to change when Clifford reconnects with a childhood friend, Norma Miller Vale (Barbara Stanwyck), and it looks like our leading man could be heading down a slippery slope towards temptation, and the ruination of his marriage.
I don't care who you are, or how consistently blissful you have been in the main relationship of your life, There's Always Tomorrow resonates just as much today as it must have when first released back in the mid-1950s.
Sirk directs with his usual capable touch, working from a screenplay by Bernard C. Schoenfeld (better known for TV fare that tends to focus on thrills and/or action), which was developed from a story by Ursula Parrot (previously made into a movie in 1934). Considering how effective the film is at showing how easily cracks can start to spread through a contented family household, I'd be interested to read the source material. There's no doubt that everyone involved does their part to sell the film but it's so full of little moments of truth that I have to assume the novel reads even better.
MacMurray is wonderful in a role that allows him to play a relatively average guy. He's not made out to be devastatingly handsome, nor is he shown to be any kind of ladies man. He's just quite a sweet, hard-working, man who takes umbrage at people casting aspersions on his friendship with a woman before starting to consider the other roads his life could take. Stanwyck is also very good, also not being sold as a beautiful seductress. Her appeal is based on her obvious affection for her friend, and a lifestyle that's a step or two removed from the everyday "humdrum" family life. William Reynolds and Gigi Perreau play the older children who start to suspect the behaviour of their father, and Joan Bennett does a marvellous job in what could easily have been a thankless role. She's a loving, caring wife who just isn't always to schedule things in a way that gives her more time with her husband.
Unlike so many other films that have wandered through similar territory, there are no villains here, no easy moments for viewers to point to and really declare "aha, that is the cause". No, what you get here is a steady build up of sadness, perceived neglect, and a questioning of love: how much effort does it take, is chemistry any real alternative to a full life made together, and does finally considering loss make it easier to appreciate what you have? Things many of us go through at least once during a serious relationship.
This is NOT in this lovely set. But buy that set anyway.
Americans may wish to try out this disc, but there's a better UK version available here.