Cinema: A Mother Finds Herself

The silent suffering of Meryl Streep

Meryl Streep could obviously have made it to the screen on looks alone. Says Director Michael Cimino, who worked with her on The Deer Hunter: "The camera embraces her." Lucky camera. Many women would kill for her slender, fashion-model figure, for that ash-blond hair, oval face, porcelain skin and those high, exquisite cheekbones. Her eyes mirror intelligence; their pale blue sparkle demands a new adjective: merulean. Only a slight bump down the plane of her long, patrician nose redeems her profile from perfection.

Yet she is more than just...