Time: 108 mins.
Rating: Not Rated
Academy Award nominations for Best Actress (Kerr) and Best Adapted Screenplay.
The basis for this film sounds like a bad joke a marine and a nun are stranded on a South Pacific island during WWII yet Huston, Mitchum and Kerr create a complex relationship piece that packs a surprising emotional punch. Much like in his earlier effort THE AFRICAN QUEEN, Huston brings together two characters with very different lifestyles and points of view and forces them to rely on each other for their survival. In this case, since Kerr is a nun, the story is only able to flirt with the idea of the couple finding future happiness, but that doesn't spoil the obvious attraction between the two leads. Every woman, even those espousing the secular world, likes to be told they're pretty and when those kind of compliments come out the mouth of someone like Mitchum, even a soon-to-be sister might reconsider her life path.
To break up the conversation, danger is added to the mix in the form of a contingent of Japanese soldiers who take over the island and threaten the safety of our couple. While the action is believable and suspenseful, it's really the burgeoning friendship, respect and love between Kerr and Mitchum that gives this piece its' magic. The lush, exotic island location doesn't hurt either.
In the hands of less talented actors, these characters could have been horribly one-dimensional; however, Kerr and Mitchum bring great depth, honesty and individuality to their roles. Mitchum is sweet, charming and decidedly masculine. He just can't understand why anyone as attractive as Kerr would choose a religious life. Her answers to his questions are not as obvious as one would expect. She brings grace, intelligence, humor and humanity to her role, making Sister Angela an irresistibly positive force. It's no wonder a lonely, love-starved grunt like Mitchum falls in love with her.
Though they clearly form a strong bond, I never quite bought Kerr's reciprocation of sexual feelings. Her faith and devotion are portrayed quite strongly and contradict such an obvious ploy on the emotions of her character and the audience. Her supposed struggle adds drama, but detracts from the film's core of honesty. That being said, her performance deserved every accolade she received. It's not easy to make a nun likable or sympathetic. Though she does have to resist the charms of Mitchum, which immediately makes most women feel sorry for her. Huston, yet again, creates a moving adventure that draws on character rather than action to create an entertaining cinematic treat. While this film has its' share of danger and suspense, it's not as energetic and explosive as THE AFRICAN QUEEN. That said, MR. ALLISON still delivers a compelling journey into the hearts and souls of its' characters. An outrageous concept brought to subtle life by a master storyteller.