Using a flower metaphor, Erma Bombeck once wrote: "Friends are annuals that need seasonal nurturing to bear flowers. Family is a perennial that comes up year after year. There is a place in the garden for each." There is a place for each of them in this beguiling film directed by James Ivory who, along with Ruth Prawer Jhabvala, has adapted it for the screen from Kaylie Jones's 1990 autobiographical novel.
A Soldier's Daughter Never Cries is in three movements. The first is set in Paris during the 1960s where American novelist Bill Willis (Kris Kristofferson) lives with his free-spirited wife Marcella (Barbara Hershey), their daughter Channe (Luisa Conlon), and her Portuguese nanny Candida (Dominique Blanc). The family circle expands when they adopt six-year old Benoit (Samuel Gruen). Having feared rejection, the little boy is so surprised by the love he receives that he chooses to take the name of his new father.
In the second act, Channe (Leelee Sobieski) becomes best friends with Francis (Anthony Roth Costanzo), a flamboyantly gay youth with a passion for opera. He helps her test her wings as a nonconformist. That is, after all, part of her bohemian family's legacy.
The last and best act is set in New England during the 1970s as the family's solidarity is threatened by Bill's heart condition, Marcella's alcoholism, and the struggles of Channe and Billy (Jesse Bradford) to adapt to American high school. Knowing that his days are numbered, Bill exhibits moments of exquisite tenderness toward those he loves most. A diary from Billy's birth mother plays an important role in bringing Channe and Billy closer together.
A Soldier's Daughter Never Cries is a fluidly acted and well-directed film about one family's capacity to adapt to changes with courage and grace.