Valentine’s 2014. Movie #86: Love Story (1970)

For the next two weeks I’ll be posting primarily about romance movies I’ve been reviewing the last few months.  I’ll mix in some Best Picture winners as well in preparation for the Academy Awards.

Director: Arthur Hiller 

Starring: Ali MacGraw, Ryan O’Neal, John Marley, Ray Milland, Russell Nype, Katherine Balfour, Sydney Walker, Robert Modica, Walker Daniels, and Tommy Lee Jones

Academy Awards (1971):

Best Music, Original Score: Francis Lai

Academy Award Nominations:

Best Actor in a Leading Role: Ryan O’Neal

Best Actor in a Supporting Role: John Marley

Best Actress in a Leading Role: Ali MacGraw

Best Director: Arthur Hiller

Best Picture: Howard G. Minsky

Best Writing, Story and Screenplay Based on Factual Material or Material Not Previously Published or Produced: Erich Segal


Olver Barrett VI (O’Neal),  a Harvard law student, meets Radcliffe music major Jenny Cavalleri (MacGraw) at the Radcliffe library.  The two get to know each other, and through numerous verbal quarrels and eventually fall deeply in love.  Upon graduation, Jenny is set to move to Paris, but instead stays and marries Oliver.  Oliver Barret III (Milland) cuts the two off financially because Jenny comes from the working class.  Phil Cavalleri (Marley), however, supports and welcomes Oliver into the family, though he has reservations about the couple’s wedding ceremony.

This film does a good job at keeping the story simple, honest, and reflecting every day life.  Though now the story seems somewhat cliché in American cinema (rich guy falls for poor girl, etc.) Love Story does a nice job of bringing two balanced characters together who complement each other well.  Both Oliver and Jenny are intelligent characters, and their verbal barbs keep a nice fun element in the film.  The deeper, underlying struggles each deals with, though, is done so in a way that adds layers to the story.

They also address the joys and pitfalls of a young married couple.  Financially cut off by his father and still attending Harvard Law School, Oliver and Jenny struggle, but through those struggles come their greatest joys.  It was good how Jenny communicated that she didn’t regret giving up Paris for Oliver, and though it seems cliché it was still very touching for me to watch.


Ali MacGraw and Ryan O’Neal worked well together.  They both present characters with strong personalities, but the little details that show their passionate love for one another comes across very well.  They act in such a way that they don’t come across as a fantasy lovey-dovey type of romance story.  Oliver deals with the expectations thrust upon him by his father, and Jenny is supportive but also willing to put him in his place when needed.  Oliver also goes to whatever lengths necessary to help Jenny once she’s diagnosed with her illness, even to the point of asking his father who he swore he’d never speak to again for money.


Each of the father-in-law’s does a great job in the film, but I felt John Marley did a better job and had stronger presence with his limited screen time.  He shows a nice range of emotions both as a welcoming father-in-law to Oliver and the grieving father following his daughter’s death.

I have to say I was disappointed with how the ending of this film turned out.  The scenes with Jenny in the hospital were without a doubt the most powerful of the film, but I feel they were rushed.  I wonder how different things would have been had the filmmakers spent a little more time at the hospital.  The ending and resolution to the story seemed off.  I did like how the film came full circle between the opening and closing shots of Oliver sitting in the stands at the ice skating rink.

Also, without a doubt the most memorable and powerful line of the film, “Love means never having to say you’re sorry.” was somewhat brushed over both times the line was spoken.  Perhaps my expectations of the line were too high, but I just felt like something was off with the delivery.

Love Story does a lot of things right, and it benefits from two strong lead characters, a balanced supporting cast, and a candid, blunt look at the early stages of love and marriage and in the end dealing with tragedy.  I could watch this movie a few more times probably, but I would have to be in the right mood.  I would recommend seeing this movie at least once.


This was Tommy Lee Jones’ first film role, a small role in Love Story.

My Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars.


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