A touching account of adolescence and some of its problems as compounded by adult density, The Restless Years is based on Patricia Joudry’s play, Teach Me How to Cry. In almost the first line of dialog, Sandra Dee is described as an illegitimate child. Her problems arise out of this and the fact that her unwed mother (Teresa Wright) has never recovered from the desertion by the father.
Everyone in town, apparently, knows the story except Dee. The girl begins to grow up when a new boy in town (John Saxon), who doesn’t know or doesn’t care about local gossip and prejudice, meets her and falls in love. His life is complicated by his luckless father (James Whitmore) who has come back to his home town to achieve the success that has eluded him elsewhere.
It is a period piece, with the dressmaker mother of an illegitimate child, and would have been more plausible if it had been played in period. But granting this, it has a feeling of poetry and sensitivity. Dee gives the picture its strongest sense of reality.