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This article is about the 1983 film. For other uses of Lianna, see lianna (disambiguation).
DVD release cover
Directed by John Sayles
Produced by Jeffrey Nelson
Maggie Renzi
Screenplay by John Sayles
Starring Linda Griffiths
Jane Hallaren
Jon DeVries
Music by Mason Daring
Cinematography Austin De Besche
Edited by John Sayles
Distributed by United Artists Classics
Release dates
  • January 18, 1983 (1983-01-18) (United States)
Running time
110 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Budget $300,000
Box office $1.5 million[1]

Lianna is a 1983 drama film written and directed by John Sayles. It features Linda Griffiths, Jane Hallaren, Jon DeVries, among others.[2]


Lianna (Linda Griffiths) is the wife of a college professor teaching film and media at a university in a small to midsized town in New Jersey, and the mother of two children. In an attempt to give her husband more freedom, at his request, and cure her boredom in being a housewife, she takes a child psychology class with her friend Sandy.

Becoming more involved in the class and interacting with the female professor, she realizes she has a crush on the instructor, Ruth. Ruth invites Lianna over to her home for dinner and they talk into the night, Lianna explaining that she was a graduate student at one time who married the professor. They eventually sleep together and begin an affair, complicated by Lianna's husband's affair with one of his students. Lianna expresses interest in leaving her husband for Ruth, but Ruth backs away, warning Lianna that living with another woman would jeopardize her career as a child psychologist—and, to complicate matters, she has a partner in another city.

Lianna leaves her husband after a particularly ugly fight to live alone for the first time in years. Lianna visits a lesbian bar and attempts to connect with other lesbians through a string of affairs to explore her new identity. The film explores her loneliness, her changing relationships with her children, and her new relationship with Sandy, who is shocked at Lianna's revelations at first, but slowly begins to accept it and support Lianna.



Critical response[edit]

The staff at Variety magazine gave the film a positive review and wrote, "John Sayles again uses a keen intelligence and finely tuned ear to tackle the nature of friendship and loving in Lianna." They especially praised the acting and the supporting characters' reactions to Lianna's lesbian affair.[3]

In a joint review of Lianna and another John Sayles film, Baby It's You, Rolling Stone's Michael Sragow commented that Sayles has his strengths but is considerably overrated, and compared both films unfavorably to his earlier Return of the Secaucus 7. He elaborated that Lianna is too ideologically single-minded while failing to offer any new insight or perspective on the subject of lesbianism. He also criticized the "truly embarrassing audiovisual montages", citing as an example the lesbian love scene being accompanied by the sounds of the women whispering in French.[4]

Reviewing Lianna's release on DVD, film critic Glenn Erickson called it "daring" and "sophisticated". He found the film's strongest point to be that rather than becoming a "melodrama" of scandal, it focuses on the protagonist's isolation and self-discovery. By his analysis, the film "sidesteps position statements and stresses intimate character touches. Lianna doesn't ask us to condemn or condone anything, but simply to be understanding and sympathetic with each other."[5]

Critics Frederic and Mary Ann Brussat wrote, "The screenplay by John Sayles is both congenial and wise... Viewers are sure to find much to savor in the moral and emotional confrontations. Lianna muses upon love, friendship, and camaraderie in a fresh but unspectacular way. It is an appealing movie worth experiencing."[6]


The film is recognized by American Film Institute in these lists:


  1. ^ a b Gerry Molyneaux, "John Sayles, Renaissance Books, 2000 p 111
  2. ^ Lianna at the Internet Movie Database.
  3. ^ "Review: Lianna". Variety. December 31, 1982. Retrieved January 25, 2008. 
  4. ^ Sragow, Michael (June 9, 1983). "Lianna and Baby It's You". Rolling Stone (397): 52. 
  5. ^ Erickson, Glenn. DVD Savant, film review, November 18, 2003. Last accessed: January 25, 2008.
  6. ^ Brussat, Frederic and Mary Ann. Spirituality & Practice, film review, 1970–2007. Last accessed: February 28, 2008.
  7. ^ "AFI's 100 Years...100 Passions Nominees" (PDF). Retrieved 2016-08-19. 

External links[edit]