Tony Mastroianni Review Collection

Life Unreal in "Friends"

Cleveland Press September 13, 1971

Movie characters are getting younger and younger while their problems grow more and more adult. In "Friends" he is 15 and she is 14 and the result is a post-teeny-bopper "Love Story."

Producer-directed Lewis Gilbert has sympathy for his characters but whether he has any understanding of them or of adults is debatable.

The setting is France and the boy (Sean Bury) is the spoiled-brat, shiftless son of a very wealthy man who is about to remarry -- to a woman with a son about his age. The boy and his father are English.

The girl (Anicee Alvina) is a recently orphaned 14-year-old who has come to Paris to live with her cousin. The cousin has a boyfriend already living with her and obviously the visitor isn't welcome.

The youngsters meet in the zoo, recognize kindred spirits, meet and walk and talk again. Out for a ride together one day (the boy also steals cars, but this time it happens to be his father's) they go off the road into a stream and have to proceed on foot -- a way, way out in the country.

Neither is anxious to return so they run off to a cottage south of Paris, somewhere near the sea, vineyards and a bullring. It's where she and her artist father used to spend summers and they find it wonderfully stocked with food and far, far away from others.

"We'll liver here like brother and sister," one of them says but audiences know that it won't be long before that relationship changes. But even before the inevitable happens they start to act like married people. She even has him moving furniture around.

The food runs out, he works at odd jobs and there comes a time when they almost starve. Shortly after they trade two beds for one she becomes pregnant, a condition that makes them both very happy. They rush off to church to stand in a corner, repeating the marriage vows as another couple gets married.

She is determined to have the baby with no one else's help but his and he agrees, goes off to a book store to get a do-it-yourself manual on obstetrics.

It's a happy year, the baby arrives and they live an idyllic existence.

The movie chooses to resolve nothing, just to suggest with a calculated measure of poignancy that there will be an abrupt and unhappy end.

The two characters are appealing without ever being convincing. But then, there is an unconvincing air about everything in "Friends." There is an adult world all around them but it never touches them nor do they touch it. There is contact, but no reaction.

Much of the movie shows them running toward each other across fields and meadows and at such moments "Friends" owes more to shampoo commercials than art.