Based on a lesser known Thomas Hardy story The Melancholy Hussar, this slight film with an unremarkable plot, poor dialogue and direction, is blessed with a few strong actors who struggle to keep their heads above the murky water of mediocrity under which the film is unfortunately submerged.
It starts off promisingly enough, with the arrival of the gallant Sergeant Singer (Barr) at the household of Dr. Edward Grove (Shepherd) to announce the arrival of the King's Own Hussars to stay on the good doctor's estate. The troop, led by the famous Captain Fairfax (a ridiculously overblown performance from Callow), is largely made up of foreign chaps who spend most of their time sitting around campfires complaining that they don't see any action, merely practising their swordsmanship. The sensitive sergeant, however, prefers to find a solitary bower under which to read a few poems, and there he meets and forms a close rapport with the daughter of the house, Frances (Fielding). The development of their forbidden relationship, together with the growing disenchantment and frustration of the soldiers, forms the basis of the film, leading, as with all of Hardy's oeuvre, to tragic consequences.
The main problem with the film is the core relationship - there's no chemistry between the admittedly charismatic Barr and the strangely wooden Fielding, nor is there any obvious development in their understanding. One minute they're chatting in the garden, the next they're rolling on the beach a la From Here To Eternity. It's true of the film as a whole; the narrative flow is erratic in both
time and action, the director failing to create any depth, either visually or emotionally, while the strong supporting cast battles vainly with poor dialogue and a quality of filming that can be likened to that of a home video. Disappointing.