Way Down East - Movie Reviews - Rotten Tomatoes

Way Down East Reviews

Page 2 of 4
Super Reviewer
½ December 24, 2010
D.W. Fucking Griffith. This idiot. An ass-backwards racist and, here, an attempted champion of women's rights who ends up being even more sexist than possibly imaginable. This and Birth of a Nation are the maddening products of an innovator who just doesn't know what the hell he's writing about. This, obviously, is not quite the technical spectacle that Birth of a Nation was, but it's a very ambitious (if completely failed) precursor to the cinematic melodrama. It's probably only notable now for the scene where Lillian Gish floats down a river. So yeah, if you want to throw two and a half hours of your life to the wind for that kind of excitement, be my guest. Just know what you're getting into - a tale of woman's suffering where she is completely and totally inactive, a maddeningly passive prisoner to her own cruel fate.
December 3, 2010
A very good and powerful drama with a wonderful performance by the lovely Lillian Gish.(08)
October 1, 2010
The best Griffith movie!
September 15, 2010
Of all the silent films (well of the D.W. Griffith films at least) I have watched to date this is by far the best of the lot. Way Down East is better written and doesn't jump back and forth into three or four different stories causing you to lose track of what is going on and by thus doing allows you to build sympathy for Lillian Gish's character. The scene on the ice is by far the most skilled camera work up to that point and makes for an excellent climax. People hail Intolerance or Birth of a Nation or even Broken Blossoms as Griffith's best work but I would humbly say (as a movie fan and not an educated critic, but of course most of there assessments are rubbish anyways) that Way Down East is his best work.
½ July 18, 2010
Sur le fond, il n'y a rien à dire, D.W. Griffith prouve ici qu'il est un personnage un peu en avance sur son temps et dénonce la société de son époque, prenant position pour une femme ayant eu un enfant sans avoir été mariée. La société de l'époque voyant cela d'un très mauvais oeil, la jeune fille va devoir tout quitter et se trouver un nouvel emploi. Mais ce dernier ne tient qu'à un fil et elle pourrait tout perdre à nouveau si son employeur découvre son passé. Le parcours de la femme de l'époque est très compliqué alors que pour les hommes, il est normal d'avoir plusieurs aventures, pas pour une femme.
Sur le forme, malheureusement, √ßa a nettement mal vieilli avec des situations tr√®s clich√©es, des probl√®mes de rythme trop important que c'en est presque indigne de Griffith. L'oeuvre est parfois impossible √† regarder cinq minutes cons√©cutives ou on s'endort. Toutefois, certaines s√©quences reviennent hausser le niveau et d√©montrent aussi une modernit√© de la mise en sc√®ne de la part du cin√©aste. C√īt√© casting, rien √† redire.
½ July 4, 2010
Overrated, I'm afraid. The pacing of this film is horrendous: I followed it patiently through the first act (about an hour and a half), but I began fast forwarding as the second act started. The film simply takes too long to get to the point, and there's a lot of dreary and dull scenes between the good ones. A few shots I found to be very beautiful: the child with the kitten, who's about to fall asleep, between his lap, the bird that lands on Gish's shoulder, as well as the final scenes in the snow and ice floes.

I might have liked the film more if I had seen it prior to Broken Blossoms (another, better work by D.W. Griffith), but that film had more going for it. Gish is a much less sympathetic character here, as a naive country woman who foolishly elopes with a man she barely knows. The baby scenes I found very distasteful: melodrama for melodrama's sake. I understood that Griffith was trying to illustrate the pain Gish was going through in the most visceral way possible, but those scenes felt incredibly unsubtle and even corny. A dead child should not be scripted this way, although Gish does her best with the scenes. It all clicks too easily: the baby dies right before the doctor arrives again, her phony husband lives next door the Bartlett's.

The movie has a cold feeling, visualized nicely by the climatic ice-river scenes (probably the best part of the film). I simply don't understand the culture of the times: she is thrown out of home she was staying when her baby died, because they learned she had no husband. Maybe the time frame wasn't made clear, but I had the impression her baby had JUST died, so I was horrified by the callousness of these women giving her the boot. I lost my suspension of disbelief at this situation that was contrived just to get Gish wandering to where she'd find the farmhouse.

I started fast forwarding when I realized that this movie was simply "Broken Blossoms" with a change in scenery: a physical abusive father replaced by a emotionally abusive, fake husband. The Chinese lover replaced by the Country lover, both much more tender than the last man in Gish's life (not to mention played by the same man!). I think the baby was added just to make sure we were aware how bad her life really was, the physical abuse was enough in Broken Blossoms. I can't avoid the comparison, and despite the handful of well-done scenes and the great climax, I can't recommend the film as a whole.
February 28, 2010
A little slow and definitely melodramatic, but saved from being soap opera fodder thanks to a a solid plot and the subtle, emotional performance of the great Lilian Gish and company. A very simple plot that unravels nicely.

What can I say? I'm a girl, I laughed, I cried, I cheered for the poor battered Anna. If you can sit out the tentative begining of this 2 hour+ film, stick around for the end, as it's pure movie magic.
½ February 26, 2010
Another excellent pairing of D.W. Griffith and Lillian Gish.
½ January 5, 2010
A great revolutionary Drama with a great Lillian Gish that's particially in Colour
January 4, 2010
Fine Griffith film with an absolutely tremendous final sequence.
½ October 30, 2009
Thank goodness filmmakers no longer feel the need to bluntly state their lesson right at the beginning of the movie. As shitty as Requiem for a Dream is, imagine how much worse it would be if it opened with a title card that said "Drugs are bad, we hope to teach you that with this story". D.W. Griffith is rarely subtle, and again here's a tale without a shred of nuance, ambiguity, or depth. It's all right there in the open, a morality play based on sexual politics that are now severely outdated. Fucking long, too. Two and a half hours, much of which is taken up by dumb comedy bits involving secondary characters. Things pick up a little at the end, when Lillian Gish FINALLY speaks up for herself and there's an exciting little bit of business. But it didn't really make up for the rest of it, which I found pretty dull. On a technical level, there were just a few poetic shots... the rest of it wasn't bad, but didn't seem terribly impressive even for 1920.
August 5, 2009
Add a review (optional)...
½ June 25, 2009
Master silent filmmaker Griffith explores the lives of the rich by way of Lillian Gish whose poor character gets mockingly engaged and embarrassed. Concluding in the famous ice flow scene towards Niagara falls, Griffith‚??s trademark cross-cutting comes into play and is the most exciting part of a film whose form has become outdated and overlooked in today‚??s cinema. For from the most exciting of the silent films but close to the most important.
½ February 20, 2009
It's funny that the very end of the film involves women kissing women and men kissing men at a triple wedding ceremony. The ice floe sequence at the conclusion of the film is remarkable. I'm sure it will remain exhilarating throughout time. It is a masterful set piece the likes of which I'm sure had never been seen before. The rest of the story is pretty straight forward and simple, but this doesn't mean it isn't a compelling and interesting narrative. It contains more beautiful sequences than I can recall being in any of his other pictures. I refer specifically to the winter scenes in the final sequence and the love scenes over looking the lake earlier in the film. This is certainly one of Griffith's masterpieces. It's crazy to think that even a film of his pedigree and caliber has been partially lost over the years.
January 23, 2009
I cannot believe I have not seen this yet! Well...there are so many great films out there and o so little time to watch them all!
½ December 4, 2008
A film by the dramatic G.W. Griffith that was so massive in 1920 - though now it is all but forgotton. Gish plays a young naive country girl who gets herself in a right mess with a dodgy philanderer. The print currently available is like many classic silent movies - crying out for restoration. The DVD available displays awful scratches and emulsion damage.
½ November 13, 2008
My favorite D.W. Griffith movie. Not quite the epic that Intolerance is, but I liked this one better than Intolerance. Lillian Gish's character is just heartbreaking, it's got some nice light moments of comedy, good bits of romance, lots of drama, and because it is D.W. Griffith, a bit of epic action near the end. I really enjoyed it.
½ October 20, 2008
This is my third taste of silent cinema any by far my favourite. Made in 1920 'Way Down East' centres around a naÔve young country girl named Anna, who travels to live with her wealthy aunt in the city. During her stay she encounters a wealthy womanizer who tricks her in to a false marriage and burdens her with an unwanted pregnancy. When her child dies however, due to destitution she is forced to find work; and is kindly taken in by a righteous family man, his wife and their charming son; who falls head over heels for her. A fairly innovative film for its time, 'Way Down East' is a classical romance that despite its age is still enjoyable to this day. Lead actress Lillian Gish is remarkable as the innocent Anna. Her acting style is much more subtle than other melodramas of the time and is so easy to sympathise with. Her beauty and charisma are something director D.W.Griffith's takes full advantage of through close-ups and pan shots of her face and her costumes. The plot may not resonate much originality or significance to a modern day viewer, but it still stands alone as a decent melodrama that will entertain any avid classic film fan. Quite lovely.
½ September 28, 2008
Lillian Gish is really endearing, and the movie is overall pretty fun, but it's way too damned long, and the characters are SO flat.

My favorite bits were the Kate/Professor side story. (Go figure. :P)
September 27, 2008
I love Lillian Gish and DW Griffith. The combo is dynamite each time. A very long movie (typical of Griffith), but the storyline is rich with betrayal, romance, humor, and suspense. It also explicitly addresses social norms and issues of the time that in many ways are still relevant today. Incredible film for 1920.
Page 2 of 4