The Reckless Moment

“You don't know how a family can surround you at times,” says housewife Joan Bennett to blackmailer James Mason: like Caught and Douglas Sirk's There's Always Tomorrow, The Reckless Moment traces the traps of postwar American domesticity with both irony and painful compassion. The plot is set in motion by the accidental killing of Bennett's daughter's unsavory lover, an incursion of L.A. noir into the breezy suburb of Balboa. But the film's emotional intensity derives less from this crisis than from the relentlessness of the everyday: raising blackmail money is just another item on Bennett's list of household responsibilities, along with the groceries, the mortgage, the telephone bill. Roving from room to room, tracked by Ophuls's restless camera, Bennett is a prisoner in her open-plan home, a condition only sympathetic extortionist Mason seems to notice. A tragic denouement is only a brief pause in the routine: wives and mothers have no time for tears.
Juliet Clark

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