This quote from a New York Times film critic gives an indication of the social climate at the time of the movie’s release: lesbians were no longer frightening the horses but they were still deemed to be something of a rarity.
Lianna told the story of an unhappily married housewife who undertakes a child psychology course in an attempt to break out of her claustrophobic lifestyle. But no sooner has she started the course than she falls in love with/develops a crush on Ruth, her tutor, and they end up starting an affair.
In the spirit of honesty in relationships – or just utter naivety – she tells her husband about this. Despite he himself having a string of affairs with his own (female) university students, he takes the moral high ground and kicks Lianna out, ensuring that their two kids are left in no doubt as to why.
Lianna seeks solace with Ruth, hoping that she can live with her. But this is not to be. Ruth is already in a relationship with someone else. She also warns Lianna that being public about her lesbianism will seriously harm any chances of a career in child psychology.
And so Lianna realises that she’s going to have to carve out her new lesbian life on her own. She takes her own apartment, gets a job as a supermarket check-out attendant and starts cruising lesbian clubs in search of companionship.
In some ways it appears to maintain the age-old tradition of ‘unhappy lesbian’ movies. But, overall, the move received very positive reviews: again, the New York Times had this to say:
It’s neither slick, like Making Love, nor does it pretend to be about something else, like Personal Best. It comes close to being antidramatic though it’s never banal….Lianna is never dull but it is so finely tuned that one has to pay attention to receive it properly. It doesn’t knock you off your feet, slam you against the wall or leave you gasping for breath. It’s civilized.