J Roald Smeets September is a 1987 film written and directed by Woody Allen. Allen’s intention of September was to be like “a play on film,” thus the great number of long takes and few camera effects.
The movie does not feature Allen as an actor, and is one of his straightforward dramatic films. The cast includes Mia Farrow, Sam Waterston, Dianne Wiest, Elaine Stritch, Jack Warden, and Denholm Elliott.
The plot centers around Lane (Farrow), who is recovering in her house in the country during the tail end of summer. She has been befriended by local widower, Howard (Elliott). Her friend Stephanie (Wiest) is spending the month with her. And her mother, Diane (Stritch), and stepfather (Warden) come to visit. It is a story of unrequited love, betrayal, selfishness, and loneliness.
Denholm Elliott… Howard
Dianne Wiest… Stephanie
Mia Farrow… Lane
Elaine Stritch… Diane
Sam Waterston… Peter
Jack Warden… Lloyd
Rosemary Murphy… Mrs. Mason
After a failed suicide attempt, Lane (Mia Farrow) has moved into her country house to recuperate. Her best friend Stephanie (Dianne Wiest) has come to join her for the summer, to have some time away from her husband. Lane’s brassy offensive mother Diane (Elaine Stritch) has recently arrived with her physicist husband (Jack Warden). Lane is close with two neighbors: Peter the struggling writer (Sam Waterston) and Howard the French teacher (Denholm Elliot). There is a string of love interests: Howard is in love with Lane, Lane is in love with Peter, and Peter is in love with Stephanie.
Lane’s mother Diane wants Peter to write her biography. Diane was once a well-known actress, in particular because, many years ago, teenaged Lane shot Diane’s abusive lover. A fragile Lane does not want this painful event to go back in the spotlight, but Peter thinks it would make a great story.
That evening, Diane decides to host a party, ruining Lane’s plans with Peter. Peter arrives early and confesses to Stephanie that he has wanted to be alone with her for a long time. Outside, there is an electrical storm, and the lights go out. Candles and piano music create a romantic setting. Diane finds her old Ouija Board and talks to the spirits of her previous lovers. A very drunk Howard finally reveals his feelings to Lane, who does not requite them. Peter tells Lane that he does not share her feelings. Lane appears to take the rejection well. When everyone else has gone to bed, Peter tries to seduce Stephanie. She is conflicted, but eventually follows him back to his house.
The next morning, a real estate agent is showing a couple around the house. Lane is counting on the money from the sale to move back to New York. Lane is feeling depressed: she has not taken Peter’s rejection well after all. This exacerbates Stephanie’s guilt. Soon after, Peter arrives. He kisses Stephanie. Lane opens the door to show the prospective buyers into the room and witnesses the kiss. She is shocked. Stephanie insists that it meant nothing, while Peter tells Lane that the two of them have deep feelings for each other. Diane comes downstairs, announcing that she and her husband are going to move into the house, permanently. Lane becomes even more distraught, insisting that Diane gifted the property to Lane a long time ago. Diane dismisses it as a drunken whim. Lane experiences a breakdown, accusing her mother of being fake and insensitive.
The climax of the film comes when an anguished Lane cries, “You’re the one who pulled the trigger! I just said what the lawyers told me to say!” Thus revealing that Diane was actually the one who shot her abusive lover. Presumably, Diane’s lawyers thought it would be better if Lane took the fall, as she would be treated leniently. The ordeal has obviously been hugely detrimental to Lane’s life. Diane finally concedes that if she could go back, she would behave differently.
Everyone leaves, except for Stephanie and Lane. Lane has a lot of paperwork that needs to be done for the sale of the house. The film ends with Stephanie encouraging Lane to “keep busy”.