Set in Spain during the
tumultuous ’30s, this adaptation of Kate O’Brien’s once
scandalous novel centers around lovely Mary Lavelle
(Polly Walker), an Irish girl who becomes a governess for an aristocratic Spanish clan. Mary just wants a little fun, but soon she’s caught between the Republican and Fascist ideals held by the family patriarch (Franco Nero) and his wife (Marisa Paredes). To complicate matters, their married, Franco-hating son (Vincent Perez) turns out to be one of those smoldering types convent-educated Mary’s only dreamt of.
Wartime ardor can bolster
a compelling film or embarrass a weak one. Director Nick Hamm has enough material for either; there are some fine
performances, striking locations, and genuine urgency in its depiction of civil war. Had he chosen to flesh out the political and class-related intrigues, he could have created a memorable picture. But because the real action becomes mere backdrop for a pair of furtive, chemistry-free lovers, our
frustrations bloom right along with theirs.