There are many reasons why Meryl Streep is generally considered the world’s greatest living actor – she has built up an incredible body of work and there are any number of performances that one could single out as a particularly effective demonstration of her talents. Yet something about Sophie’s Choice remains perhaps her definitive, signature piece of work – it’s probably her finest role and therefore a strong contender for the best example of screen acting cinema can offer. The film itself is not without its issues, but Streep is just so good in it that you can almost forget everything else going on and just admire the way she brings a complex, potentially melodramatic character to life with truth and complete naturalism.

It’s a fairly dry adaptation of an excellent novel, so there’s a heavy and and slightly dull aesthetic to the film, its weighty themes dragging proceedings along. It’s at its strongest with flashbacks and scenes set during the second world war – the present-day developments just aren’t anywhere near as compelling, unless Streep is onscreen. In many ways, it’s a textbook example of her craft, portraying years of psychological torment and backstory with a handful of scenes, a few lines here, a glance or two there – managing to conjure up the depth and complications of a troubled human being with limited time in which to do so. Whenever the film drags, Streep pulls it along, and it’s hard to think of many other performers today who can do so with such consummate skill.

Meryl Streep10
Flashback scenes8
Meryl Streep10
Present-day scenes4
Meryl Streep10
Bechdel Test Passes
  • Features more than one named female character
  • The female characters talk to each other
  • They talk about something other than men
Bechdel Test Failures
  • n/a
8Overall Score

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