In this new series of articles, our writers are watching classic films for the first time. Here, Rafaela catches up on the 1989 Oscar-nominated Steel Magnolias.

‘That’s how it should be, life goes on,’ says M’Lynn (Sally Field) while lovingly playing with her grandson soon after undergoing a life-altering trauma. If there is a piece of dialogue that can most accurately encapsulate Steel Magnolias, this is undoubtedly it. Herbert Ross’ ’80s classic pays homage to life and all its sorrows, contrasted by the beauty found in moments of ordinary routine.

Witty, funny and brilliantly written, Steel Magnolias basks in the glory of its cast, which includes such names as Field, Shirley MacLaine, Dolly Parton and a young Julia Roberts, whose performance is nothing short of impeccable. Following the daily lives of a group of women living in a small Southern town, the film makes the most of the rapport between its characters, with a steady rotation of zingy one-liners alternating with heartfelt conversations on the hardships of existence, all of which casually thrown about during a blow-dry or manicure.

An undeniable product of its time, the film manages to tackle complex issues such as chronic health problems with a light-hearted touch, relying on the comfort of camaraderie to justify the great lengths of human resilience. It is easy to be charmed by the women onscreen, whose outstanding performances are a direct reflection of the film’s title: naturally tender but undoubtedly tough, walking through life hand in hand, always eyeing the next period of peace after the inevitable waves of woe.

Steel Magnolias brings cinema back to its basics with an efficient combination of cast and script, tied together by un-showy, tactful direction. A standout in a decade marked by a myriad of similar titles, the film manages to leave its mark by reflecting on how living is nothing but a twisted, wonderful sequence of trades.


Available to watch on: Netflix


CAST: Sally Field, Shirley MacLaine, Julia Roberts, Olympia Dukakis, Dolly Parton, Daryl Hannah 

DIRECTOR: Herbert Ross

WRITER: Robert Harling

SYNOPSIS: A group of women goes through life’s ups and downs together in a small Southern American town.

About The Author


Rafaela Sales Ross is a proud Brazilian currently living in Scotland. She has a Masters in Film and Visual Culture and has been diving deep into the portrait of suicide on film for a few years now. Rafa, as she likes to be called, loves Harold and Maude, The Broken Circle Breakdown, Kleber Mendonça Filho and pretty much anything with either Ruth Gordon or Javier Bardem in it. You can find her on both Twitter and Letterboxd @rafiews