Kate Brown is the author of this review.
Marian: “You never wrote.”
Robin: “I dont know how.”
That quotation is representative of the simplicity of the love between Robin Hood and the Lady Marian, played by the celebrated Audrey Hepburn and Sean Connery, in this touching romantic account of the last years of the famous outlaw. The film has other symbolisms: The opening scene of the movie is of three apples ripe and healthy that fade to wrinkled up old pieces of fruit. The closing scene is again of three apples, this time two wrinkled up, the other ripe. The image of the three fruit is poignant in that the number three is traditionally used by the Celts in their wisdom, and the cycle of life is shown in the apples.
The music exudes suspense as, in the opening scenes, Robin and Little John stand before a seemingly deserted castle in the desert. Calling out, they are told that there are no men, there is no treasure, only a one-eyed old man and a group of women and children. Robin, after having gone off to the Crusades with his beloved King Richard, is now aging and tired of the bloodshed. He and John are quite willing to quit.
King Richard, brilliantly acted by Richard Harris, rides up demanding that Robin take the castle despite the claim. Robin and John refuse, and Richard, now mad with the fever of too much battle, locks the two up and proceeds to kill everyone but the old man. Robin and John’s comic bickering lighten up what would otherwise be a solemn scene. King Richard the Lion Heart, for whom Robin left England and his beloved Marian, has become a raving lunatic. In fact, Richard is so far gone that he dies very shortly after this travesty. His death is a relief to Robin and John, who are now free to return to England and the Forest of Sherwood that they love so dearly. It is the first time they have seen their homeland in twenty years.
They find their old forest unrecognizable, their old friends aged, and Friar Tuck taking confession in a land where the church is outlawed. The Sheriff, is still in Nottingham, and King John is now more popular than ever. It seems some things never change. Robert Shaw is the sheriff who never cracks a smile. Ian Holm plays an incompetent King John, more concerned with his twelve year old wife than with kingly duties.
Meanwhile, discovering that Marian is now an Abbess, Robin is dumbfounded! He rides to the Abbey meaning to put an end to her career and take Marian home, only to find that the Marian he loved so long ago is gone, leaving a mature and content Abbess in her place. When the Sheriff’s men show up to arrest her for reasons of her religion, he tries to rescue her, but is run off by the sheriff. So the old feud begins again. Audrey Hepburn is a comical Marian, who, while driving a tinker’s wagon with her fellow nuns in it, lands all of them in the river. Robin and his friends enjoy the process of delivering the ladies safely to the shore.
The subtle emotional depth of the film is wonderful. Throughout the film, Robin and Marian have shared interrupted moments of poignant discomfort, neither knowing exactly what to say to the other, although Marian is rarely at a loss for sharp words. At the end, the heartbreak is plain on Marian’s face.
Although this movie was made long before Sean Connery became Sir Sean Connery or Audrey Hepburn became an icon in the world of charity, their performances in these roles are indicative of such a future. Despite its lack of accolades, Robin and Marian remains a classic in the genre, and a most realistic and touching story.