Kitty Baldry (Julie Chirstie) is a haughty society queen with a tunneled view of life. Kitty’s complacency is rocked when her husband, Captain Chris Baldry (Alan Bates), returns from the front during the First World War shell-shocked and suffering amnesia, not knowing who she is and determined for a reunion with Margaret Grey (Glenda Jackson), a working class lover from his past.
Kitty employs psychiatrist Dr. Gilbert Anderson (Ian Holm), to help unscramble her husband’s feelings for the women in his new disoriented life including his all-too caring cousin Jenny (Ann-Margret), but ultimately comes to realize that the man she knew is unreachable, as dead as the past he pines for.
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. The film was the first to be given a PG certificate by the British Board of Film Classification.
About the Story
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 He appears at one final farewell party thrown by his wife, Kitty (Christie), and throughout he seems withdrawn and distant.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.
The Return of the Soldier (1982)
Directed by: Alan Bridges
Starring: Julie Christie, Glenda Jackson, Ann-Margret, Alan Bates, Ian Holm, Frank Finlay, Elizabeth Edmonds, Amanda Grinling, Valerie Whittington
Screenplay by: Hugh Whitemore
Production Design by: Luciana Arrighi
Cinematography by: Stephen Goldblatt
Film Editing by: Laurence Méry-Clark
Costume Design by: Shirley Russell
Art Direction by: Ian Whittaker
Music by: Richard Rodney Bennett
MPAA Rating: Rated PG for some violent images and language.
Distributed by: 20th Century Fox
Release Date: 1982