Before I comment on Meryl Streep’s performance in Sophie’s Choice, I must first highlight that the film overall won 13 awards and received twelve nominations. Streep won eight of the thirteen awards given, including a Golden Globe and an Academy Award.
As far as accents go, it seems Streep is a master. All the way from the ice queen in the pseudo-Vogue Runway in The Devil Wears Prada, where the performance, though easily interpreted as over the top, is relatively restrained to the eccentric nature of the Witch in Into the Woods, to even the seemingly high-spirited Donna in Mamma Mia!, Streep has played it all. In all of these roles, the accents she portrays reveal something fascinating about Streep. It seems in all these varying accents, Streep channels another human being entirely. She somehow manages to take on their every mannerism, embracing their faults and highlighting their strengths to give an extraordinary performance every time.
Perhaps her greatest accent performed of all time was her enchanting Polish-American accent in her role as Zofia “Sophie” Zawstowski. As the film begins, we learn Sophie was a Holocaust survivor. She, a young Polish-Catholic woman, lost her father in a German work camp and was separated from her two children in Auschwitz. In Streep’s role as Sophie, she faces a difficult task. She can’t be too fragile, as her “choice” would be given away. Yet, she cannot show unbreakable strength either, as the balance of her emotions is pivotal for pulling off this role.
Streep had her work cut out for her as this character. However, she, of course, played every ounce of Sophie in just the right way. Nathan (Kevin Kline) plays Sophie’s lover in the film. Her indisputable chemistry with Kline only adds to the greatness of this film. Stingo (Peter MacNicol), a wannabe journalist from the South, befriends both Nathan and Sophie. The three take on life after tragedy together. Though in most moments they seem to repress how much they have suffered, Sophie’s horrific past is essential to the growth of Stingo, who grows from youthful ignorance to a deeper understanding of human suffering.
Without spoiling the ending or revealing too much of the storyline, I leave my readers with this: Streep gave humanity a gift when she took the role of Sophie. Do not waste this gift. Do not neglect it. If you have not already seen this film, do take just a few hours of your time to enjoy this film in its entirety.