Picks and Pans Review: A Summer Story

updated 08/15/1988 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 08/15/1988 AT 01:00 AM EDT

Cute seeps into every crevice of this film adaptation of John Galsworthy's novella The Apple Tree, where cute most emphatically does not belong. Screenwriter Penelope Mortimer and director Piers {Venom) Haggard have turned the author's moralistic tale of a love destroyed by England's rigid class distinctions into soap opera piffle. Aristocratic young Londoner James (A Handful of Dust) Wilby sprains his ankle while vacationing in rural Devon in 1902. A country girl, well played by Imogen (Nanou) Stubbs, provides splints and sympathy. The two cutie pies fall instantly in heat. They take cute walks, shear cute sheep and have cute sex. Passion has rarely been so blandly rendered. The orphaned girl's guardian (Susannah York) opposes. But cute will out. Wilby proposes. He'll travel ahead to London, then send for his bride-to-be. Then Wilby misses a crucial train connection. Stranded in a seaside resort, he meets the sister (Sophie Ward) of a school chum. She's cute too. What to do? Wilby opts for someone from his own class. Years later, Wilby—in laughable old-age makeup—returns to Devon and learns of his love's tragic end. Motoring home misty-eyed, he spies a blond youth in the road; the boy bears a striking resemblance to Wilby himself. Has the film finally developed some dramatic resonance? Hardly. Darned if the lad doesn't shoot the stranger—his dad, of course—a cute little smile and wave. Roll over, Galsworthy. (PG-13)

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