The Subject Was Roses

Synopsis: When Timmy Cleary (Sheen), comes home from soldiering, he's greeted by the open but strained arms of his two parents, John and Nettie, (Neal and Albertson). Once considered sickly and weak, he has now distinguished himself in the service and is ready to begin a new life. His parents, however, are still trapped in the bygone days of early and unresolved marital strife and begin emotionally deteriorating through several drama packed encounters. Now mature, the young Tim Cleary finally understands the family dynamics that has played all throughout his boyhood. By the simple act of bringing his mother roses on behalf of his father, Tim realizes he may have destroyed his family, but is helpless to obtain resolution which must come from both his parents.
Genre: Drama
Director(s): Ulu Grosbard
Production: Warner Bros.
  Won 1 Oscar. Another 1 win & 3 nominations.
Rotten Tomatoes:
107 min


Across the morning sky

All the birds are leaving

Oh, how can they know

it's time for them to go?

Before the winter fire

We'll still be dreaming

I do not count the time

Who knows

where the time goes?

Who knows

where the time goes?

Sad, deserted shore

Your fickle friends are leaving

Ah, but then you know

It's time for them to go

But I will still be here

I have no thought of leaving

I do not count the time

Who knows

where the time goes?

Who knows

where the time goes?

And I'm not alone

While my love is near me

And I know it will be so

Till it's time to go

So come the storms of winter

And then the birds

in spring again

I do not fear the time

Who knows how my love grows?

Who knows

where the time goes?

Looks like a lovely day.


Timmy still asleep?

I haven't heard him.

Breakfast ready?

I thought we'd all have

breakfast together.

No. I have to

go downtown.


Ruskin wants to see me.

I'll stop off at St. Francis,

offer a prayer of thanks.

All those casualties,

he never got a scratch.

We're very lucky.

You think he enjoyed the party?

He seemed to.

You know, it's the first time

I ever saw him take a drink.

He drank too much.

You don't get out of the army every day.

He was sick during the night.

Sure! It's probably

the excitement.

It was the whiskey.

You should have stopped him.

For three years, he's gotten along fine

without anybody telling him what to do.

I had to hold his head.

Nobody held his head in the army.

That's what he said.

But that didn't stop you.

He's not in the army anymore.

It was a boy that walked out

of this house three years ago.

It's a man that's come back in.

You sound like a recruiting poster.

You're ready to repeat the old mistakes.


Pardon me.

You said mistakes.

It was a slip of the tongue.

I'd like to know what

mistakes you're referring to.

Can I have my coffee?

I'd really like to know.

He was 18 when he went away.

Until that time,

he showed no special skill at anything.

You treated him like he was a protege.

I think you mean prodigy.

What I really mean is baby.

For a baby,

he certainly did well in the army.

I didn't say he was a baby.

You treated him like one.

You were surprised he did well.

You didn't think he'd last a week.

"Bless us and save us,"

said Mrs. O'Davis.

Know why you were surprised?

"Joy, joy,"

said Mrs. Malloy.

Because you never understood him.

"Mercy, mercy,"

said old Mrs. Percy.

I never doubted he'd do

as well as anyone else.

Where he's concerned

you never doubted, period.

If he came in and said he could fly,

you'd help him out the window.

If you're saying I have

confidence in him,

you're right.

Why not?

Who knows him better?

Coffee's excellent.

He's exceptional.

Here we go again.

Yes, exceptional.

In what way?

I refuse to discuss it.

A person who's going to be famous

usually drops a few clues

by the time they're 21.

I didn't say famous.

I said exceptional.

What's the difference?

You wouldn't understand.

Here's something you better understand.

You can't treat him as though he'd

never been away. He's not a kid.

If you had stopped him

from drinking too much,

that would have been

treating him like a kid?

This is where I came in.

He was trying to keep up with you,

and you knew it.

You sound like you're jealous.

You two were so busy drinking,

you hardly paid attention

to anybody else.

You are jealous.

Don't be absurd.

He and I got along better yesterday

than we ever did before,

and you're jealous.

Well, well, well.

Can't Ruskin wait till Monday?

No. And don't pretend

you're disappointed.

What a charming little breakfast

you and he will have together.

You're welcome to stay.

My ears are burning already.

I've never said a word against you.

And you know it.

Don't forget my excursion to Montreal.

It was always your own actions

that turned him against you.

And the convention.

Don't leave that out.

The curtains.

The curtains for Timmy's room...

they're coming today.

I don't know anything about curtains.

Yes, you do.

I do not!

They'll be $10.

What's the matter with the old ones?

They're worn out.

They look all right to me.

They aren't all right.

$10 for curtains.

Timmy will want to bring friends home.

The old squeeze play.

Are you going to give me the money?


I need $5.00

for the house.

I gave you 15 yesterday.

That went for the party.

That party cost close to $100.

It was worth it.

Did I say it wasn't?




Morning, son.

I thought you were

going to sleep all day.

I smelled the coffee.

Your mother tells me you

were sick during the night.

I'm fine now.

A little rocky myself.

I wonder why.

What time is your appointment?


It's 10:

Mr. Ruskin

wants to see me.

Yeah, it's to bad.


I thought we'd ride up to the lake house.

Why don't you?

You know I can't.

This thing with Ruskin means a sure sale.

I understand.

We'll go tomorrow.

My mother expects us for dinner tomorrow.

How about next Saturday?

All right.


I understand none of

your old clothes fit.

Yeah, that's right.

I'll take you downtown on Monday.

We'll get you some new ones.

All right.


I still think I can take you.

I wouldn't be surprised.

What did you say this one was for?

That's a combat infantry badge.

How about that!

It's not as important as it sounds.

The Freeman boy dead.

The mullin boy crippled.

We're very lucky.

I know.

I'm stopping off

at St. Francis

to offer a prayer of thanks.

See you later.


How did you sleep?


How's he feeling?

All right.

Looks a lot older.

It's been three years.

How's his business?

Who knows?

Coffee market's off.

I hope you're hungry.

Can't get over the change in him.

Guess what we're having for breakfast.

It's not just the way he looks.

Guess what we are having for breakfast.



I don't know.

Yes, you do.


Sure you do.

What is it?

What's your favorite?

Bacon and eggs?

Now I know you're teasing.

No, I'm not.

I forgot what a tease you were.

No, I'm not teasing.


We're having waffles.


You used to be crazy about waffles.

I still am.

I've got the waffle batter ready.


Your first morning home,

you're entitled to whatever you want.

I want waffles.

I used the last egg in the batter.

I want waffles!


Cross my heart.

All right.

I see a new grocer.

Quite a few new stores.

Pop said the bremens moved.

And the costellos.

Remember old zimmer the tailor?


A few weeks ago,

a woman came into his shop

with a coat she wanted altered.

Zimmer started to fix it,

then very politely excused himself,

went up to the roof, and jumped.

No one knows why.

Who was the woman?

Mrs. Levin.

That explains it.

That's not funny.

I'm sorry.

What a thing to say!

I said I'm sorry.

I'm surprised at you.

Bless us and save us.


Bless us and save us...

as in, "bless us and save us,"

said Mrs. O'Davis.

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Frank D. Gilroy

Frank Daniel Gilroy (October 13, 1925 – September 12, 2015) was an American playwright, screenwriter, and film producer and director. He received the Tony Award for Best Play and the Pulitzer Prize for Drama for his play The Subject Was Roses in 1965. more…

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Submitted on August 05, 2018

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