Hannah And Her Sisters

Hannah And Her Sisters

****1/2

Reviewed by: Jennie Kermode

Hannah And Her Sisters is an ensemble film in the truest sense, broken into a collection of segments which explore the lives, loves and personal crises of an extended family in New York. Opening at the traditional family Thanksgiving party, it charts two eventful years for Hannah, her sisters, her husband, her ex husband, her sister's boyfriend and her continually sparring parents. Each tale is compelling, and as the film develops the various stories come together until we understand something less tangible about the family as a whole.

Elliot (Michael Caine) is married to Hannah (Mia Farrow), but is convinced he has fallen in love with her sister Lee (Barbara Hershey). The guilt of the two lovers as their affair develops, and the impossibility of finding a solution which will make anyone truly happy, is intelligently explored without recourse to simple moralistic argument; likewise Elliot's uncertainty about whether or not he should tell his wife (would he be doing so for her sake, out of a duty of honesty, or selfishly, just to ease his conscience?)

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Meanwhile, Hannah's hypochondriac ex husband Mickey (Woody Allen) is thrown into despair when it seems he might have a brain tumour, but when he finds out he doesn't, things get even worse. With death an omnipresent possibility in life, how can he take pleasure in anything? As these characters struggle to find direction, the youngest sister, Holly (Dianne Wiest playing beautifully against type) is struggling to find the confidence to do anything with her life at all, although she keeps throwing herself wholeheartedly into a series of opportunities which appear to be her natural calling. Hannah, at the centre, lives a calm, measured life, apparently untroubled by anything, always focused on giving to others, as a result of which she risks getting taken for granted and struggles to assert her personhood.

Elegantly constructed and shot with the same apparent carelessness which turns out to be something much cleverer, Hannah And Her Sisters is a film which will take you by surprise. Though it's full of comic moments and is underscored throughout with subtle humour, it represents one of Allen's foremost accomplishments in drama, making superb use of its top-notch cast. As always, his photography is sumptuous - he's clearly indulging himself in the scene where Lee takes a tour of New York - and the score is a delight. A multiple Oscar winner, it's a film which no Allen fan should miss, and it's highly recommended for anyone in the mood for intelligent adult drama.

Reviewed on: 05 Jun 2007
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A portrait of the secret turmoil and complicated lives and loves of an extended family in New York. On re-release.
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Director: Woody Allen

Writer: Woody Allen

Starring: Michael Caine, Barbara Hershey, Woody Allen, Mia Farrow, Dianne Wiest, Max von Sydow

Year: 1986

Runtime: 103 minutes

BBFC: 15 - Age Restricted

Country: US

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