It’s exciting to see Shyamalan on such confident footing once more, all these years later.
At the end of World War II, a young woman stands on a hilltop in France and, as the sun bathes her in golden light, she says, "There will be days and days and days like this." That image provides the last shot in "Plenty," which is the story of how very wrong she was. The woman is Susan Traherne, a young English fighter in the French Resistance. She is not very seasoned and perhaps not very good at her job, but she stays alive behind enemy lines and she has a brief, poignant love affair with one of the men who parachuted down out of the night sky to fight the Germans.
The movie opens with her days in France. It follows her through the next 15 or 20 years, and ends with that painful flashback to a day when she thought the future held nothing but good things for her. But nothing else in her life is ever as important, as ennobling or as much fun as the war. She is, perhaps, a little mad. She confesses at one point that she has a problem: "Sometimes I like to lose control."
The movie stars Meryl Streep as Susan and it is a performance of great subtlety; it is hard to play an unbalanced, neurotic, self-destructive woman, and do it with such gentleness and charm. Susan is often very pleasant to be around, for the other characters in "Plenty," and when she is letting herself lose control, she doesn't do it in the style of those patented movie mad scenes in which eyes roll and teeth are bared. She does it with an almost winsome urgency.
When she returns to England after the war, Susan makes friends almost at once. One of them is Alice (Tracy Ullman), a round-faced, grinning imp who seems born to the role of best pal. Another is Raymond (Charles Dance), a foreign service officer who is at first fascinated by her free, bohemian life style, and then marries her and becomes her lifelong ennobler, putting up a wall of patience and almost saintly tolerance around her outbursts.