Ryan’s Daughter is a brilliant enigma, brilliant, because director David Lean achieves to a marked degree the daring and obvious goal of intimate romantic tragedy along the rugged geographical and political landscape of 1916 Ireland; an enigma, because overlength of perhaps 30 minutes serves to magnify some weaknesses of Robert Bolt’s original screenplay, to dissipate the impact of the performances, and to overwhelm outstanding photography and production.
Robert Mitchum gives a stolid performance as an aloof widower, a schoolteacher returning from a Dublin trip to whom Sarah Miles pours out her conception of love. United in marriage, pair never achieve a full sexual-spiritual union – he is 20 years her senior, she is immature. Arrival of shell-shocked Christopher Jones to take over the British occupation garrison cues an illicit affair.
As the townsfolk become more scandalized by the affair between Jones and Miss Miles, she is eventually stripped and shorn as an adulterer and a wrongly-convicted informer.
Trevor Howard gives an assured performance as a knowing local priest; John Mills might be a technical tour de force as a Quasimodo-like town idiot, but the character is overdrawn and often jarring to story-telling; other supporting players, many drawn from the Irish stage, are very good.
1970: Best Supp. Actor (John Mills), Cinematgraphy.
Nominations: Best Actress (Sarah Miles), Sound