Home > Reviews > NOT WITHOUT MY DAUGHTER – Jerry Goldsmith


February 5, 2021 Leave a comment Go to comments


Original Review by Jonathan Broxton

Not Without My Daughter was a true-life political drama/thriller directed by Brian Gilbert, based on the autobiographical book of the same name by Betty Mahmoody and William Hoffer. Sally Field plays Betty, a typical American housewife and mother married to an Iranian doctor, Sayed Mahmoody (Alfred Molina). When Betty and Sayed travel to Iran to visit his family, Betty finds herself plunged into a nightmare when Sayed announces that they will be staying in the country; surrounded by an unfamiliar culture, and with Sayed becoming increasingly abusive and controlling, Betty makes the difficult decision to flee the country and return to the United States, and hatches a dangerous plan to smuggle herself and her daughter across the border to the US consulate in Turkey.

The overwhelming majority of Jerry Goldsmith’s most popular scores in the 1980s and early 1990s were in the sci-fi, fantasy, and action genres, but the great composer often said that intimate and emotional dramas were the types of films he liked to score the most – he often cited 1977’s Islands in the Stream as his favorite score of his own, for example. Not Without My Daughter was one of those smaller scale films that Goldsmith preferred, and it essentially set off a series of scores by him that eschewed the enormous 1980s action-adventure writing and concentrated more on personal emotions and realistic drama: this film was followed by titles like Sleeping With the Enemy, Medicine Man, Love Field, and Forever Young, among some other blockbusters. However, despite Goldsmith’s personal preferences, these types of scores have tended to be the ones which leave the least impression with me, and Not Without My Daughter is a perfect example of that.

The gimmick with Not Without My Daughter is the fact that Goldsmith intentionally replaced the brass section of the National Philharmonic Orchestra with a bank of quite abrasive synthesizers, the sound of which is very much rooted in Goldsmith’s 1980s electronic oeuvre. Goldsmith’s use of synths has always been a little bit of a love-it-or-hate-it situation. When they work, as they do in scores like Legend or Total Recall, they work tremendously well, but then in other scores they have a tendency to date badly. Goldsmith favored a sound which was at times painfully synthetic, and Not Without My Daughter is one of those which is clearly and unapologetically electronic. As others have said, one could argue that Goldsmith intentionally used the synths as a way of conveying the sense of alienation that Sally Field’s character feels throughout the film, but this could also have been achieved by using more traditionally Middle Eastern instruments, perhaps from Iran, so your guess is as good as mine. The bottom line is that, if you have ever felt that Goldsmith’s electronic writing was anything approaching inappropriate, then Not Without My Daughter is going to follow that pattern.

The score is bookended by a lovely (if a little anonymous) main theme, an attractive piece for lilting strings that creates sympathy for Betty Mahmoody and her desire to return home. It receives especially lovely performances in the opening “The Lake” and the conclusive “Home Again,” but then only ever really appears in fragments in the body of the score proper. It is hinted at in cues like “Trapped,” the gentle and tender “Night Stories,” parts of “Dry Spell,” and in the lovely “The Promise,” where it speaks to Betty’s memories and desires for home. The fact that the theme remains somewhat fleeting and intangible, just out of reach and never quite able to be grasped, is a good way of conveying that emotional part of the story’s core message, and Betty’s isolation overseas.

A lot of the rest of the score tends to be low-key suspense music, much of which feels like it was based on earlier synth-heavy scores like Criminal Law and Rent-a-Cop, as well as being something of a dry run for later scores like Basic Instinct and The Vanishing. There is a quick flash of it in the first moments of “The Lake,” bubbling electronic, frenetic tom-tom rhythms and throbbing percussive drum pads, which feel a little unsettling, but the majority of it comes later. The opening moments of “No Job” are filled with suspense, a combination of vaguely Arabic-sounding woodwinds, what sounds like a sampled Indian tabla, and light, chiming electronic textures, but quickly become much more low-key and understated, a series of long string sustains, electronic textures, and moody little woodwind figures which do little more than add atmosphere. This style continues over the next couple of cues, although “Trapped” does feature some more playful pizzicato textures every now and again.

“School’s Out” returns to the synth-heavy action music heard at the beginning of the first cue, the opening moments of “Don’t Leave” are awash in jaggedly thrusting Herrmannesque strings, and then the penultimate cue “First Break” oscillates between the suspense and action stylings, as well as presenting a synth statement of the main theme that would have sounded wonderful as a noble brass anthem, but instead sounds somewhat bland and insipid in its final state. The conclusive cue “Home Again,” as noted above, contains a lovely final statement of the main theme for strings, as well as a duet for flute and a lightly jazzy solo piano, although the theme is perhaps undermined and prodded slightly into the realm of cheesiness by the tingling electronic sounds that accompany the final resolution.

However, again, I have to point out that the electronics in these cues will be a very acquired taste. The whizzing and boinging noises that Goldsmith uses, especially in cues like “Dry Spell” and “First Break,” have the potential to absolutely ruin the score for people who have never warmed to them. Instead of being intense and dramatic, some may consider them almost comical, which is always a risk that Goldsmith ran when he used similar sounds in scores like this, but then also in scores like Gremlins and Link. I like them, as I have always been in tune with Goldsmith’s aesthetic for this type of film, but others should consider themselves forewarned.

The original score album for Not Without My Daughter was released by Intrada towards the back end of 1991, many months after the film was released, and contained a reasonable 35-minute presentation of the score’s highlights. In 2008 producer Ford A. Thaxton put together an expanded release for La-La Land Records featuring a few minutes of extra music, a couple of source cues, and a twenty-minute “orchestra only” suite where the synths are removed.

Not Without My Daughter remains a somewhat obscure entry in Jerry Goldsmith’s 1990s filmography. The main theme is lovely, although it is not as memorable as some of his other more iconic efforts of the period, and if you can get yourself in the right frame of mind the action and suspense material is enjoyable despite the dreaded electronic enhancements. If you do feel like venturing down this road less travelled, I personally prefer the 35-minute Intrada album, but either way this is a comparatively minor effort in Goldsmith’s filmography, and is likely only to be of real interest to Goldsmith scholars, or anyone who has ever wanted to see photos of Sally Field in a hijab.

Buy the Not Without My Daughter soundtrack from the Movie Music UK Store

Track Listing:

  • The Lake (2:37)
  • No Job (3:15)
  • Threats (1:30)
  • Trapped (2:46)
  • School’s Out (1:09)
  • Night Stories (1:59)
  • Don’t Leave (3:30)
  • Dry Spell (5:52)
  • The Promise (1:59)
  • First Break (4:37)
  • Home Again (5:44)
  • The Lake (2:37)
  • Night Stories (1:59)
  • The Promise (1:59)
  • Mistaken Identity (0:32)
  • No Job (3:14)
  • Trapped (2:46)
  • Street Call (1:19)
  • First Break (0:52)
  • Threats (1:30)
  • The Basement (0:40)
  • School’s Out (1:09)
  • Don’t Leave (3:30)
  • The Recruiters (0:55)
  • First Break (4:37)
  • Dry Spell (5:52)
  • The Flag/Back Home (5:43)
  • Piano Source (0:45) BONUS
  • Prelude – Chopin (2:29) BONUS
  • Joy To The World (0:27) BONUS
  • Orchestra Only Suite (20:07) BONUS

Running Time: 34 minutes 58 seconds – Original
Running Time: 63 minutes 02 seconds – Expanded

Intrada MAF-7012D (1991)
La-La Land Records LLLCD-1075 (1991/2008)

Music composed and conducted by Jerry Goldsmith. Performed by The National Symphony Orchestra. Orchestrations by Arthur Morton. Recorded and mixed by Alan Snelling. Edited by Ken Hall. Score produced by Jerry Goldsmith. Expanded album produced by Ford A. Thaxton.

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