Our Rating: ★★★★½
L Factor: Subtext
Short Take: Two strong women tested in Nazi Germany
Alternate Titles:
Year: 1977
Duration: 117 minutes
Language: English/USA
MPAA: PG
Director: Fred Zinnemann
Writer: Lillian Hellman, Alvin Sargent
Starring: Jane Fonda, Vanessa Redgrave, Jason Robards, Maximilian Schell, Hal Holbrook, Meryl Streep

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JuliaWhen I was 13 years old, I asked my mother to take me downtown to the local movie theater to see Julia. I can still remember the overwhelming feeling I had that day, as for the first time, I witnessed the great love that two women had for one another. Julia was nominated for eleven Academy Awards and won three of them that year. It stands the test of time as a wonderfully powerful film and remains on my list of all-time favorites.

Based on a section of writer Lillian Hellman’s memoir Pentimento, it focuses on Hellman’s relationship with her (most likely fictional) friend Julia. Through flashback, we see the development of their close friendship, and then it jumps to the time when Hellman was well known for writing The Children’s Hour. The story of two teachers who are accused of being lesbians was on Broadway during the 1930s and later became a film starring Shirley MacLaine and Audrey Hepburn.

Hellman, a Jew, is headed to a writer’s conference in Moscow, and she travels through pre-War Nazi Germany to meet Julia, who is studying at the University of Vienna with Sigmund Freud. Hellman is played brilliantly by Jane Fonda as she nervously smuggles a large amount of cash to her friend to fund anti-fascist activities. Julia is also Jewish and is involved in helping others flee the Nazis, in great danger herself.

Vanessa Redgrave received the Oscar for Best Supporting Actress for her portrayal of Julia. The film also features Jason Robards as Hellman’s lover Dashiell Hammett, and a very young Meryl Streep makes an appearance. The danger is haunting. This friendship is put to the ultimate test, as Hellman is reflecting on a woman who soon after lost her life. (AB)