Review Legacy

A Woman Like Eve (1979)

What’s this? A film from the 1970s that treats homosexuality with nuance and earnest generosity, not as a big icky farcical hoot or a facade for depravity? To be fair, I am very much NOT up to speed on my queer cinema history, but given that this felt like a fair depiction in 2021, I can only imagine how progressive it was 42 years ago.

In two films I’ve seen (this plus The Debut), Nouchka van Brakel has a clear thematic focus on women who yearn to define their own sexuality, even if it falls outside the norms, only for society and peers to tear her down.

I found A Woman Like Eve to be a much more palatable work than The Debut. Brakel captures Eve’s self-discovery in gentle, intimate terms — first as curosity, then growing excitement, then rapturous passion. Monique van de Van gives a tremendous performance as a woman pulled in different directions.

Rather than let everyone off the hook too easily, the film’s second half becomes more explicitly feminist as Eve’s husband Ad patronizes, humiliates, and demeans Eve. Thankfully, Brakel keeps some shading in the picture, showing the toll on Eve but also making a case that her free-spirited exploration has been at least a little harmful to her family and children, much the way it has been empowering to her.

I did have some complaints with the movie — Eve’s lover Liliane is a bit of a closed book, to the detriment of the effectiveness of their on-screen relationship. Meanwhile, the film’s score is tonally jarring and overbearing; it never worked for me. The film’s final shot is also a bit of a head-scratcher, adding confusion to the movie’s pretty clear arc otherwise.

But overall A Woman Like Eve is a compelling and intimate portrait — especially for the era.

Is It Good?

Good (5/8)

Note: This review was originally published elsewhere. Please excuse brevity or inconsistencies in style. If you have questions or feedback, please leave a comment or contact me.

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