Reviewed by: Brett Willis
tarring: Nick Nolte, Barbra Streisand, Blythe Danner, Kate Nelligan, Jeroen Krabbé | Director: Barbra Streisand | Producers: Barbra Streisand, Cis Corman, Andrew S. Karsch, James T. III Roe
“The Prince of Tides” is a powerful film dealing with the aftermath of childhood abuse. While much of the material is handled well, a few changes would have made it a lot better overall.
Tom Wingo (Nick Nolte) suffers because of his childhood. He himself appears to be a good father, but his relationship with his wife isn’t really a relationship at all because Tom doesn’t have normal emotions. When Tom’s twin sister Savannah (Melinda Dillon) makes another in a series of suicide attempts, Tom serves as Savannah’s “memory” and tells her psychiatrist, Dr. Lowenstein (Barbra Streisand), about things that Savannah has totally blocked out. Dr. Lowenstein has marriage problems of her own, and she and Tom end up comforting each other. We can see from the video jacket cover that that “comfort” includes fornication; the only question for first-time viewers is how long it will take and what will set it off. As usual, Hollywood makes it as justifiable as possible.
There is strong profanity including many uses of “f*”. Tom’s flashbacks include numerous scenes of abuse by his parents and a scene involving multiple rapes and killings; those scenes are generally handled as discreetly as the subject matter allows. Dr. Lowenstein’s husband is cruel to her, to their son and to anyone else he feels like being cruel to. There are no nude scenes, but the initial seduction scene between Tom and Dr. Lowenstein involves intimate touching. It’s implied that once your mate cheats, it’s OK for you to cheat too.
Many people have gone through childhood trauma something like what the Wingo children experienced, and suffer from it for the rest of their lives. The most thorough healing for those wounds is the unconditional love of God in Jesus Christ, which sets us free to really love others. Of course this film doesn’t tell us that; it shows only the partial healing that can come when people show their concern for each other and decide to forgive past wrongs as best they can. I guess that’s better than nothing. Throughout most of the film, Tom and Dr. Lowenstein draw strength from each other in a legitimate respectful relationship, without becoming sexually involved. If the writers had let their relationship just continue that way, and had cleaned up some of the language, this film would have been more worthwhile and nothing would have been lost from its overall impact. As it is, it should be considered adults only.
Year of Release—1991