Dour but absorbing, Sophie’s Choice looks to Sophie Zawistowska, Polish survivor of Auschwitz, as she attempts to rebuild her life in Brooklyn and forget the traumas associated with the Europe of World War II.
Young, naive and impressionable, wannabe writer Stingo arrives from Virginia to make his fortune in New York. He finds himself in a boarding house in Brooklyn, where he meets Sophie (Meryl Streep – The Deerhunter, Kramer Vs Kramer) and her lover, the unstable Nathan (Kevin Kline – A Fish Called Wanda, The Ice Storm): their lives become irretrievably and tragically entwined.
It’s a long, compassionate if melodramatic story of hidden truths, past and present – the Catholic Sophie hiding from choices made, the Holocaust-obsessed Nathan (a Jew himself) and an enamoured Stingo (Peter MacNichol – TV’s Ally McBeal) narrating years hence. Writer and director Alan J. Pakula (Klute, All the President’s Men) arguably takes the source material (William Styron’s novel) a little too reverentially and plays safe with its warm, idyllic tonality of Brooklyn days reflecting Stingo’s bittersweet recollections or the cold blue greys of Sophie’s Auschwitz.
But, having learned Polish and German for her role, a young, nuanced Meryl Streep is a revelation, complemented by Kline in his feature film debut.
Nominated for 5 Oscars in 1983 including adapted screenplay & cinematography, won 1 for Meryl Streep and best actress.