Tony Mastroianni Review Collection

The Family Way -- A Sensitive Marital Drama

Cleveland Press July 14, 1967

Warm, perceptive and ingratiatingly human is "The Family Way," an English motion picture which opened at the Colony this week.

This strictly adult film is about newlyweds whose marriage "hasn't taken on," as one character puts it. Ten weeks after the ceremony bride Hayley Mills has as much right to wear white as she ever did and husband Hywel Bennett is unhappy, ashamed and bitter.

Now this sort of thing has been the subject for ribaldry since time began but so far as this exceptional movie is concerned there isn't a leer or snigger to be seen or heard.

It is a slice of life as it is lived in an industrial town in Northern England but it is universal in its characters, its situations and its truths.

The young couple begin their marriage in a room divided from the bedroom of the groom's parents by paper-thin walls. Disaster is inevitable as it is brought on by the unfeeling remarks and behavior of friends and relatives, by the grunts, snores and loud conversation that go on through the night; by the rattle of a chamber pot and the slamming of doors.

Their honeymoon plans are shattered when a travel agent absconds with their money and their cramped existence continues.

Privacy is a luxury the poor cannot afford the movie makes eloquently clear and life is not so much a single problem as it is an assortment of a thousand tiny abrasions.

And as in life the film moves out in circles around the two characters -- to their young friends, their nosy neighbors and both sets of parents

In a secondary plot that almost overwhelms the main story the lives of the groom's parents are revealed bit by bit in an almost parallel drama. That it does become so important is due to the superb acting of John Mills and Marjorie Rhodes as the boy's father and mother.

Mills is an arrogant, loud, heavy drinking, insensitive man whose efforts to put down his son hide his own inadequacies. Marjorie Rhodes as his wife gives us a portrait of a perceptive woman who abides her husband though she sees through him.

The elder Mills certainly deserves an Academy Award nomination for his portrayal. The closing scene in particular is a moving one, a moment in which he brings about the first outward sign of real affection from his son at the same time that he perceives a glimmer of an unhappy truth.

The movie was photographed in an English industrial town making the suffocating closeness of living terribly real. The people in the film, major and minor characters alike, come across as very genuine.

In fact, there is a genuineness about the entire motion picture that is refreshing -- humor that is friendly and poignancy that never overreaches.