To put it simply, I thought the film was an uninteresting cliché that seriously lacked suspenseful writing or any reason to keep interested. There’s a good remembering scene towards the end, but even the ending fails by going for hard to believe jolly nonsense.
Jennifer Jones plays Victoria Morland aka Singleton, the mysterious interest of a man, a young woman who got tricked into marrying the wrong guy, killed him and now suffers from amnesia. She goes by the name of Singleton, doesn’t know her real identity and falls in love with Allen, without knowing he’s in fact the one writing her the love letters that started everything. No worries, I didn’t do any spoilers as all this info is pretty clear/obvious from the beginning.
I think it’s worth starting with the couple of good elements in this performance. First, there’s an hesitation when she first admits her memory loss to Allen; I think this also comes up in other scenes and Jennifer does a good job in acting a certain shame that Victoria feels – she’s often quite apologetic and embarrassed of her situation.
Also, on the good side there’s the big dramatic scene towards the end, when she remembers everything. It’s the most emotional moment in the film, a much needed one I might add. Jennifer brings it all: tears & deep understanding of the character, but if only that lasted. One minute later she loses herself again in the dreadful writing: she hasn’t even had time to process her dramatic memories that she immediately jumps into Cotten’s arms, with a big smile on her face disregarding the previous highly-dramatic moment, only seconds before.
Those good acting moments can’t compensate for the awful truth: Jennifer doesn’t get above the material. Sure, playing someone confronted with memory loss isn’t easy to do, but most of her choices are uninspired. She also gets the typical clichéd lines & monologues for a character in such position and I admit it’s hard to do justice to such unnatural writing.
The performance is inconsistent, unbalanced and handled by an actress who is either poorly guided by her director or just not experienced enough. There are moments when all of the sudden she goes for wide-eyed reactions of Norma Desmond kind, as if it’s suddenly turning into a horror film or a suspense movie – which this film clearly isn’t.