Way back in January, I was looking for something to have playing on TV in the background while I cleaned the house. I went from station to station until I finally came across a movie that I had never seen before. It featured a young-looking Sally Field wandering through a house that was full of stuffy-looking old people. She stepped out of the house and dived, fully clothed, into a swimming pool. Everyone in the house was shocked. Then, one abrupt jump cut later, a bearded David Carradine was hijacking an ice cream truck…
“What the Hell is this?” I wondered. Checking on the guide, I discovered that I was watching Maybe I’ll Come Home In The Spring, a made-for-television film from 1971. I put off the cleaning for thirty minutes so that I could watch the rest of the film.
(And, if you know how obsessive compulsive I am about keeping the house clean, then you know what a big deal that was for me.)
After watching the rest of the film on television, I rewatched Maybe I’ll Come Home In The Spring on YouTube. And I decided that I so wanted to recommend this film that I ended up launching Embracing the Melodrama Part II specifically so I’d have an excuse to write about Maybe I’ll Come Home In The Spring.
Sally Field, who was 25 when this film was first broadcast but looked and sounded much younger, plays Dennie Miller. After being raised in the oppressively conformist atmosphere of the suburbs, Dennie ran away from home and spent a year with her hippie boyfriend, Flack (David Carradine). As we learn from several flashbacks that are almost randomly spread out across the film, Dennie’s life with Flack largely amounted to panhandling and trying to avoid the police. Finally getting tired of living with the controlling Flack, Dennie waited until Flack was busy panhandling and then hitched a ride with a leering truck driver.
Arriving back home after being gone for a year, Dennie is welcomed back by both her father (Jackie Cooper) and her mother (Eleanor Parker). However, Dennie finds it difficult to readjust to her parent’s conformist life style. Meanwhile, her emotionally distant parents are uncomfortable with talking to Dennie about the previous year and instead, cho0se to act as if she never left. Dennie’s younger sister, Susie (Lane Bradbury), both looks up to and resents Dennie. Susie got used to a life without Dennie and now that Dennie has returned, Susie is forced back into the role of being the kid sister.
Meanwhile, Flack isn’t prepared to let Dennie go. Fully committed to both the idea of living a life separate from conventional society and to his own self-image as being the ultimate counter-cultural alpha male, Flack travels across California, intent on tracking Dennie down and convincing her to once again leave with him.
I loved Maybe I’ll Come Home In The Spring. While it is undeniably dated (as any 1971 film about hippies would be), it also touches on a lot of themes and issues that never go out of date. Whether it was the complicated relationship between Dennie and Susie or Dennie’s discovery that, as a result of her year spent on her own, all of her parent’s friends now view her as being somehow “damaged,” there is so much about Maybe I’ll Come Home In The Spring that rings painfully true.
And while Maybe I’ll Come Home In The Spring does not hesitate to point out the hypocrisy of Dennie’s parents and their friends, it’s equally critical of Flack and his countercultural posturing. In the end, you come to realize that Flack and Dennie’s father are actually two sides of the same coin. They’re both convinced that their way is the only way and that they — and they alone — know what is best for Dennie. In the end, Maybe I’ll Come Home In The Spring is less about mainstream vs. hippie and more about Dennie’s struggle to be an independent woman in a world that doesn’t value or appreciate female independence.
Maybe I’ll Come Home In The Spring is a good film and guess what? You can watch it below!