Rock Hudson and Jane Wyman starred in two films directed by Douglas Sirk in the 1950′s, All That Heaven Allows and Magnificent Obsession. When they were released, they were considered glossy, if soapy, romantic dramas without much insight or artistic aspiration. But now both are highly respected, with Criterion editions and scholarly appreciations as thoughtful commentary on post-WWII re-definitions of class and culture. In All That Heaven Allows, Wyman plays a widow quietly being smothered by the constrictions of her suburban life. Her children want her to spend the rest of her life alone, urging her to get a television so she can be entertained at home and occasionally attend events at the country club. But she is drawn to her handsome young gardener (Hudson), a man of the natural world.
The Dissolve has an excellent essay by Noel Murray about the film, focusing on the meaning of objects like a Christmas tree, a television, two servings of bread, and a sawhorse. If you’ve seen the movie, you will see it more deeply. If you have not seen the movie, it will make you want to see it, and it will help you see all movies more deeply.