A frustratingly not-terrible action thriller.
Frank Gilroy's "The Subject Was Roses" was an extraordinary play, and it has been filmed with the greatest care, but it fails as a movie. It is hard to say exactly why. There's nothing obviously wrong, but when you walk out you don't feel as if you've been there. Something was missing.
The story has to do with a young man who comes home from the Army after World War II and finds himself caught in a crossfire between his parents. Their marriage has been in trouble for a long time, but now it arrives at a crisis because their son will no longer back down on the things he believes in.
The parents are wonderfully drawn portraits in Gilroy's original play. We sense that sexual incompatibility is at the bottom of their quarrel, but they have branched out into a variety of battlefields: how to raise their son, money, the church, her family, suspected adultery and mutual persecution complexes. The typical American marriage, in other words.
All of these long-standing grievances come into the open when the son returns home and refuses to play the game. The three people are caged together in a lower-middle-class flat, and their struggle rages back and forth between the kitchen and the living room with occasional awkward sorties into the bedroom and the john. This material was suited to the limitations of the stage; the actors, like the characters, were trapped there and couldn't do what they needed to most: bust loose.