BETWEEN FRIENDS is a tough story told with unrelieved intensity, acted with underplayed angst, and directed with quiet strength by Eduardo Ponti. The "Strangers" are three unrelated women, each of whom has a burden that grows until it must be lifted.
Mira Sorvino is a media photographer, daughter of Klaus Maria Brandauer (who has multiple awards for his own news photography, who has just had one of her images appear on TIME magazine - an image of a little girl from Angola who we gradually learn died in the fire Mira was photographing. She is haunted by the fact that the time she spent photographing the child could have been used to save the child's life.
Deborah Unger is a concert cellist whose wife-abusing father (Malcolm McDowell) is released from prison despite her conviction that he should die for his cruelty, forcing her to leave her own family in the attempt to end her father's existence.
Sophia Loren is a haggard housewife who has devoted her sad life to caring for her wheelchair-bound past athlete husband (Pete Postlethwaite) until she sees her illegitimate daughter she was forced to abandon becoming the sculptor artist she herself always wanted to be. Each of these women have visions of the same small girl at moments when they are forced to confront their pain and each finds a way back to salvation through 'living out a dream'.
Some may find the story saccharine, but the actors deliver these sad folk in such an honest way that together they manage to capture our hearts. It is a true pleasure to see Sophia Loren act again and even the makeup she dons for her dowdy role cannot hide the fact that she remains one of the most beautiful women the screen has known - and one of the best actresses. All cast members are superb. Just be aware of the fact that this is a bleak story that requires much from the viewer. The rewards are worth it.