Pain and Glory (Dolor y gloria)
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A startlingly real depiction of family life at the start of WWII.
William Wyler's wonderful war drama Mrs. Miniver (1942) is a testament to the power of emotion and compassion during wartime. Wyler delivers patient direction to his homefront film about how an average family would survive and feel during the start of World War II. Wyler's black and white classic is clearly propaganda to give hope and comforting sentimental nostalgia for the brave men that went off to fight Hitler and the courageous ladies that had to survive at home. Wyler's direction is stunning to look at with peerless black and white cinematography in every scene as he utilizes all the drawn curtains, faint light, and overpowering shadows for brilliant shadowplay in Mrs. Miniver.
I love Greer Garson in Mrs. Miniver as a strong woman independent of her husband's wishes and actions. Her agency is apparent as she goes out of her way to buy herself an expensive hat, save her son's proposal, survive a deadly encounter with a raving German pilot, rescue that same dying German pilot who threatened her, and persevere on behalf of her family. I appreciate Greer Garson as one of the first real redheaded actresses and an expressive actress in her own right. You are hypnotized by her gentle and earnest nature with her revealing eyes.
I adore Teresa Wright in her role as a young lady, rich in wealth, and abundant in kindness in Mrs. Miniver. Wright acts toe to toe with the adult actors and actresses around her and still manages to feel more mature than any of them. I was impressed by her in Alfred Hitchcock's Shadow of a Doubt (1943), but she's just as resplendent in Mrs. Miniver the year before. Teresa Wright was a fantastically gifted young actress as she wielded convincing dramatic skill with ease.
Lastly, Walter Pidgeon is fairly funny and quirky as a husband character for Greer Garson to play opposite. Mrs. Miniver is a shocking war film as the family must inside a bunker during the German air raids of England. But Mrs. Miniver is also a poignant family drama with romance and coming of age aspects as well.
A film many argue brought American into the Second World War, largely due to the rousing speech at the finale, and the depiction of British struggles under heavy bombing, Mrs. Miniver focuses on a small family, particularly the friendly, charming housewife, whose life is altered, though not necessarily torn apart, by the conflict. The Oscar winning performances are, by today's standards, nothing too special, but at the time they managed to capture the hearts of a nation, and are still very engaging when watched with a modern eye. The Director himself has admitted it was made purely as a propaganda piece, created in response to America's policy of isolation, but with that Director being the legendary 40-take Wyler, you know it's going to be the best damn propaganda film it could possibly be. Much of the film is spent with fairly idle, mundane conversation, but it makes the intense scene ever more impactful, and when things star falling apart, you feel the central family's pain, and are firmly on their side. It's a film so instrumental to the American war effort that Joseph Goebbels himself has praised it. When your film is held in high regard by a genocidal maniac, and one of the people the movie is calling for military action against, you know you've made something special. Dated and occasionally shallow, perhaps, but even if Mrs. Miniver isn't remembered as a great film, it will always be remembered as an important, nay, essential one.
I love this film. The best scene is when the family is in the bomb shelter as the as the airfield and the village is bombed. I don't know where the reviewer got his information. Mrs. Minver is not tending the roses as her husband is off at Dunkirk. It is true she is in the garden early one morning, but she is looking off in the distance towards the sounds of the artillery, worrying about her husband.
The 1940s produced some odd Best Picture winners with the brilliant Rebecca (1940) being followed by an all time classic in How Green Was My Valley (1941) but they didn't hold the films of 1942 up to the same standard of excellence as they rewarded this glorified propaganda film. I'm not denying that World War II was one of the most significant events of the 20th century and that it's effects are deserving of being documented in art but it's done without a trace of creativity here as we see the 1940s ideal, a nuclear family brave a number of tragedies with their stiff upper lip. Greer Garson's performance as the title character is deserving of it's iconic status and she earned her Best Actress trophy but the rest of the film isn't as excellent or fascinating as she is and that leaves us with a lot of dull filler in between her scenes.
The wealthy Miniver family, lead by patriarch Kay, Greer Garson, and family man Clem, Walter Pidgeon, face the horrors of World War II as their son Vin, Richard Ney, enlists and participates in the Dunkirk evacuation. Vin falls in love with Carol, Teresa Wright, who is of higher status than him and proposes to her one night after he lands his RAF plane at the family home. As life gets tougher and tougher for everyday Britons Kay weathers the storm as she remains unflappable even as Air Raids occur regularly and her son is in constant danger of dying.
I suppose the most fascinating thing about the film was seeing how people in 1942 viewed the War and how the ideal of the unflappable family was sold. There is lots of referencing of Christianity, something Governments rightly wouldn't refer to in this day and age, while a simple housewife and mother is our protagonist as she wants for nothing more than supporting her family. The fashion and the dialogue were often funny to watch and listen to as the outfits get progressively plainer as the War's effects worsen and lines like "This is the people's War" are being uttered. More than a little heavy handed, yes, and hardly convincing considering what we know now about the horrors of War but a nice documentation of a very different time period's attitude to this conflict.
Garson's performance, as I previously stated, is absolutely dynamite as she is a charming, steely woman with a magnetic presence. When considering how thinly written her character is it is even more remarkable that Garson injects real personality and life into her heroine and makes even the most cynical viewer, myself included, drawn into her story. Matching her is one of my favorite actresses of the 1940s, the lovely Teresa Wright, who is luminous as the sweetheart of Vin and who I wish had existed for more of a purpose than dying and leaving the Minivers sad. She sells her romantic dialogue and she and Ney have a pleasant chemistry that wouldn't feel out of place in today's films. The major female roles in the film are filled with talented, expressive actresses who have left their mark on cinema but the same cannot be said for the male actors.
One of the things that confused me most about the film was the fact that male lead, Pidgeon, was speaking in an American accent while playing a man who had supposedly spent his entire life in Britain. Maybe I could have accepted it if everybody else was doing the same accent but Garson and Wright were doing proper British accents so it was simply confusing. Pidgeon's style of acting also appears dated when compared to those around him as we get lingering close up shots of him in which he acts more like Richard Dix than Henry Fonda.
This is a watchable film and one that I would recommend even if only for it being an interesting historical artifact. When considering it's Best Picture win I would have preferred that they reward the classic tearjerker The Pride of the Yankees (1942) which features another excellent Teresa Wright performance and some genuinely heart wrenching moments despite initially appearing to be just a traditional sports biopic.
I love this movie. I can easily say it is my favourite. Lady Beldon and the youngest son, Toby ('you can write it in blood'), keep me in stitches but I bawl my eyes out at the end every time.
With her peaceful English life suddenly thrown into turmoil by the Second World War, MRS. MINIVER continues to provide a solid rock of security for her family.
Released seven months after America's entry into the War, this film did a great deal to inform the American people about Britain's defiance against Nazi Germany and the steadfast resolution of the British people in the face of seemingly overwhelming odds. Coming at a time of heightened emotions - as well as being expertly produced and extremely well acted - it is easy to see why the film earned 6 Oscars, including Best Picture & Best Director.
Greer Garson is completely marvelous in the title role, (for which she won the Best Actress Oscar), presenting a portrait of grace & courage under fire which transcends mere acting.
Two other ladies give outstanding performances in the film. As the local aristocrat, Dame May Whitty is properly imperious & proud, yet the viewer sees her character unbend over the course of the film to become much more vulnerable. Winning the Best Supporting Actress Oscar, lovely Teresa Wright is luminous as Dame May's granddaughter. Sweetly sensible, elegantly at ease, joyous during hardships, Miss Wright gives a performance not easy to forget.
In solid, understated roles, both Walter Pidgeon as Mr. Miniver & Richard Ney as his elder son, supply good support to the ladies in the cast. Trivia : Greer Garson age 38 at the time was hesitant to play the role of Mrs. Miniver as her character was a mother of Vin Miniver 'Richard Ney ' a collage student in the film. It payed off as Greer Garson won best actress 'oscar' and in addition married 26 year old 'Richard Ney' as they fell in love on the set of the film.
The most famous and perhaps most effective propaganda film of World War II. it is easy to see why it was so popular in 1942-and why Winston Churchill was moved to comment that its propaganda value was worth a dozen battleships. A superb sentimental piece wartime melodrama.
I think why this resounded so much with the people of it's time is that it showed the strength of the British people, and the strength of the British woman in wartime. Waiting for family members that may never return, tending the wounded, even at times staring the enemy in the face and disarming them while being honorable and good-hearted. I think that the fact that American actors playing British ones seems a little strange, but that rarely bothers me in a film. The story of young love here points to the fact that no matter how short a time two might have to be together, if it's true love, it's worth the sacrifice. The courage of the British people at Dunkirk was also pointed to in the film, and it was nice seeing a family where the father doesn't abuse his wife or his children from this era, but actually has a healthy relationship with each. Pigeon and Garson showed great chemistry, and they portrayed a very loving couple rare for their time in film. Garson and Wright are both a treat to watch, and Wright's debate with Ney's character showed a lot of the flaws and hypocrisies that we see in modern liberal philosophies. Great film.
Wyler's tantalizing close calls may not be fabricated with sharp finesse but is undeniably brimmed with chilling horrors.
Wyler's tantalizing close calls may not be fabricated with sharp finesse but is undeniably brimmed with chilling horrors. Such an apotheosis of the emotions that each character goes through due to an incident like war that is arguably far from the field, ought to be a proof of witty satirical writing. But mind you, above all, it always will be a family drama. A drama whirling around three dimensional characters that keeps giving us reasons to be attracted to them despite of flaws and mistakes. These characters has an absorbing tale to tell. As much as eye opening message this envelope contains, the script never grows manipulative or provocative to lure the audience in and draw our the emotions through it.
What it relies upon is the performance of the cast. And they have hold on to their end of the promise throughout the course. Garson as the protagonist and titled character, is honest to her portrayal, she is convincing on each frame. On the other hand, surprisingly Pidgeon doesn't have enough to factor in, in fact Wright as a supporting cast has much more to offer to the film and the audience. It has a very meticulous script. It focuses on weaving out an enclosed circle of short stories that are imputed between this big picture.
Especially the sequence where a wounded soldier follows Garson to her house and has an intriguing encounter in there. It is definitely the highlight of the feature and personally it resonates to me a lot like a scene from Frankenstein where, he is gifted a flower by a child. Creating an accurately humane emotions out of a story within a story marks out as a brilliant filmmaker in Wyler's basket. Mrs. Miniver is rich in bits and pieces but often fumbling and sloppy as a whole chunk of art piece.
Dated genuinely inspiring delivery with possible relevancy in contemporary terms while Garson's performance idealized a lovely, mostly optimistic figure under a distant perspective during tough times. (B+)
(Full review TBD)
The second half of this picture is some very amazing, suspenseful sequences even. But, before that point there are a few noticeable elements that are a tad dated, and maybe a few things don't pop the way they should. But it's a fine fine World war II film with some assured direction, and a powerful performance from Oscar winner: Greer Garson.