Sunflower is the tragedy of an ill-starred love destroyed by the horrors of war.
Sophia Loren reaches a new high of mature, dramatic expression, particularly in contrast with Ludmila Savelyeva’s briefer but beautifully contained portrait of a Russion woman who saves an Italian soldier (Marcello Mastroianni) on the Stalingrad front, to become his wife and mother of his child. The climactic confrontation between Loren, the wife Mastroianni left behind, and Savelyeva is a sterling credit to both femme performers.
Also creditable is the glimpse of postwar Moscow and Russia, grimly objective of life there, during and post-Stalin. The Soviets cooperated in providing the loosely integrated but spectacular battlefield action.
It’s a heart-clutcher and a four-handkerchief hit, abetted at every turn by a Henry Mancini theme of lyric substance that quietly penetrates every mournful moment. Giuseppe Rotunno’s color camerawork is firstrate.