• Ruth Prawer Jhabvala, Screenwriter
  • James Ivory, Director/Screenwriter
  • Kaylie Jones, Novelist
  • Ismail Merchant, Producer
  • 1998 October Films. All rights reserved.

James Ivory and Ismail Merchant present "A Soldier's Daughter Never Cries", the story of a famous American writer and his family living in Paris in the sixties and seventies. The father, Bill Willis, is a successful expatriate writer (based on Kaylie Jones' father, writer James Jones). As a World War II veteran, he is still haunted by his experiences in the Pacific. The film opens the day six-year-old Benoit, a French orphan, is brought in to the family for adoption.

Benoit's natural mother holds up the adoption proceedings due to feelings of guilt and remorse. This terrifies the Willis' with the possibility that Benoit may not stay. Benoit keeps his suitcase packed, ready at a moment's notice, to be sent back to the orphanage. It's only after much tenderness and reassurance from Bill and wife Marcella that Benoit relinquishes his suitcase and eventually asks to have his name changed to Billy, because he wants more than anything else, to be American.

Just as Channe reaches puberty, she is befriended by a sensitive and artistic boy named Francis. Francis is the fatherless son of a British expatriate mother. Channe and Francis become inseparable. As sexual maturity overtakes Channe, her friendship with Francis, who is excluded from the teen-age party scene, becomes strained. Francis turns morose and withdrawn as she looks romantically at other boys. At the end of the school year, Channe and her family move back to the United States. Her father explains this move is because of a congenital heart problem, which is getting worse and he wants to be under American doctors' care.

When the family moves back to Long Island, New York, Channe and Billy attend the local high school where they fit in no better than they did in Paris. Unsure of herself, she shares intimate conversations with her father about boys and sex. Bill tries to guide her but he feels powerless; he is unwell and is preoccupied about finishing his final World War II novel.

With the leaves falling outside of their home and Billy raking the yard, a worsening Bill tells Channe that she must read the diary of Billy's pregnant mother - a diary which Bill has kept all these years in anticipation of the day when his adopted son would want to learn the truth about his origins. After their father dies, Billy and Channe are brought close by their enormous loss. Marcella tries to give Billy his natural mother's diary, but he refuses to take it. He gives it to his sister to read as an act of love and trust, saying he can only manage one mother at a time.


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