The Return of the Soldier (film)

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The Return of the Soldier
Original movie poster for the film The Return of the Soldier.jpg
Directed by Alan Bridges
Produced by Simon Relph
Ann Skinner
J. Gordon Arnold
Written by Hugh Whitemore
Starring Julie Christie
Alan Bates
Glenda Jackson
Music by Richard Rodney Bennett
Cinematography Stephen Goldblatt
Edited by Laurence Méry-Clark
Distributed by Twentieth Century Fox
Release date
  • 1982 (1982)
Running time
99 minutes
Country United Kingdom
Language English

The Return of the Soldier is a 1982 British film starring Alan Bates as Baldry and co-starring Julie Christie, Ian Holm, Glenda Jackson, and Ann-Margret about a shell-shocked officer's return from the First World War.

It was directed by Alan Bridges and written by Hugh Whitemore based on the novel of the same name by Rebecca West. The film was entered into the 1982 Cannes Film Festival.[1]

The film was the first to be given a PG certificate by the British Board of Film Classification.


In 1914, a group of British soldiers is preparing to leave to fight in The Great War in France led by Captain Chris Baldry (Bates). He appears at one final farewell party thrown by his wife, Kitty (Christie), and throughout he seems withdrawn and distant.

The story moves on to 1916. Kitty and her companion, Jenny Baldry (Ann-Margret), are living in England. Jenny is concerned because they have heard nothing from Chris' regiment, but Kitty dismisses her fears, more concerned by the rising prices of commodities in wartime Britain.

Their quiet war is shattered by the unexpected visit of a Margaret Grey (Jackson), who has been written to by Chris from his hospital bed. She says Chris is ill and has been brought back to England, but cannot reveal more. Kitty refuses to believe the visitor and has her thrown out. It is only when she studies the telegram carefully that she realises it is genuine and that her husband is in fact in a London hospital.

When they visit, Kitty and Jenny see he is being treated for shell-shock, contracted on the Western Front. Chris doesn't remember his own wife, Kitty, and instead shouts that he wants to see Margaret Grey. Humiliated, his wife departs, not entirely convinced he isn't shamming his illness.

After a few days, Captain Baldry returns home, to a house that seems alien to him. His former friends are strangers, despite their efforts to reach out to him. He is more amused by simple pursuits, such as walking and staring into the river. He shows little interest in his wife Kitty, and they sleep in separate rooms.

He sends for Margaret and both recall their past together. He had been in love with her despite the opposition of his parents to her working-class roots. Following a quarrel, they had been forcibly parted, and had both ended up marrying other people. Kitty is hurt and furious that he shows more interest in Margaret than in herself.

An expert in such matters, Doctor Anderson (Holm), is summoned and examines the patient. He advises that they allow Chris and Margaret to see each other more, something agreed to by a reluctant Kitty and by Margaret's understanding husband (Finlay). As their relationship blossoms, it becomes apparent that his attachment to her is one of a childlike nature.

Kitty desperately wants him to be cured, and to return to the authoritative pre-war man she had known. Anderson is less keen to cure the Captain, noting how happy he is now. To return him to the present, the horrors of the war and the memory of a young son he had lost to illness, would be cruel. He doesn't even remember the child.

Finally they resolve to tell Chris about the child, seeing it as a spur that will "cure him." As Kitty watches from a window, Margaret tells him. His body demeanor changes visibly and he starts striding towards the house, looking as his cousin Jenny remarks "every inch a soldier."

Kitty realizes that her husband has come back to her, even though he will likely now be sent back to the war.



  1. ^ "Festival de Cannes: The Return of the Soldier". Retrieved 2009-06-12. 

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