This latest Merchant Ivory film shows that a family drama doesn’t have to be melodramatic or saccharine to be entertaining.
A Soldier’s Daughter Never Cries tells the story of the Willis family through the eyes of daughter Channe (Luisa Conlon and Leelee Sobieski playing her at different ages). Living in 1960s Paris, Channe sees many interesting people come into her life. There is Billy, the young French boy adopted by the family, and Francis, her opera-loving best friend (a wonderfully flamboyant performance by Anthony Roth Constanzo). Most importantly, there is Channe’s father, Bill (Kris Kristofferson), a famous writer.
The relationship between Channe and her father is at the center of the film. Bill seems to understand his children in a way that most parents don’t bother to. When Channe is caught forging his signature on a note for school, he explains to her how he suffered when someone forged his name. His approach seems much more effective than any traditional punishment. When teenaged Channe becomes sexually active, Bill takes a similar approach. He offers advice without talking down to her and trusts her to do the right thing.
The movie has no real plot or central conflict but it benefits from great characters and nice small moments which make it moving in its own quiet way. It also benefits from good performances, particularly by Sobieski, Kristofferson and Constanzo.