Today is my 45th Birthday and I can think of no better way for me to spend this day than to review some of my all-time favorite films. So sit back and enjoy my thoughts on some of my all-time favorites.
Let’s start with…..The Best Years of Our Lives
Number of Times Seen – At least 10 (21 July 2001 on TV, DVD, 16 Jun 2013 and 31 Aug 2015, 21 Feb 2016, 20 Nov 2016 and 8 Jan 2019)
Brief Synopsis – Three WWII veterans return home and find out very quickly that things are not as simple as they use to be.
If you have never seen this movie, I urge you to stop reading this post, read my four original non-spoiler reviews (linked Here, Here, Here and Here), watch the movie and finally after you’ve seen it, absorbed it and even cheered a bit (I did every time that I’ve watched it) then come back here for a review and analysis full of spoilers.
This is a film that I saw nearly twenty years ago for the first time knowing absolutely nothing about it.
It instantly became one of my all time favorite films and even though its run time comes close to 3 hours I never get bored of it because the story is so relatable even after more than 70 years.
The way that the story looks at 3 different soldiers returning from war is great.
Each served in a different part of the Armed forces (Army – Al, Navy – Homer and Air Force – Fred)
Each of them also came home with a different kind of problem (Physical disability – Homer, Mental disability – Fred (shell shock or nightmares of his bombing missions) and Al – who has trouble relating to his wife and children after serving so many years in the Pacific as a Sgt.)
Each of them is at a different stage of their life – Al – married with 2 grown up children, Fred – married recently to a woman who he met for a short time before the war and Homer – still in love with his high school sweetheart and preparing to get married.
All 3 of these men return to homes they once knew and no longer recognize anything because of how the way changed them and the way they look at the world.
More importantly, the world continued without them and they don’t feel that it will be easy to catch up so quickly because of the way they are looked upon by non-veterans who don’t appreciate enough what they did overseas.
This film dives deep into the lives of these men and we get to see how they are trying to reintegrate themselves into their old lives with much difficulty.
The cast is superbly chosen and they all give amazing performances. Fredric March plays Al perfectly and he won an Oscar for Best Actor for his portrayal here.
Harold Russell, a real life WWII veteran who lost both hands during the war plays Homer and we can feel the uneasiness that he shows and feels when he sees how people react to his hooks instead of hands.
The first scene where we learn about his disability is one of the most moving and uncomfortable scenes ever filmed in a movie.
Russell actually won two Oscars for this role and remains the only actor to win two Oscars for the same role. He won Best Supporting actor and they gave him an honorary Oscar that year for his portrayal.
He is also one of the very few non-actors to have won an Oscar for their very first film performance.
Fred is played by Dana Andrews and he too does a wonderful job showing the emotional impact the war has had on him; he has trouble with work and with his wife and tries to make the best of things even when he knows how tough his life is gonna be because of his demons.
The fact that he falls in love with Al’s daughter Peggy helps him see hope for his future despite the fact that he is still in a very unhappy marriage.
Myrna Loy plays Al’s wife Milly and she has held the fort for the years that Al was away and now she must do all she can to help her husband reintegrate himself into their lives even if she also has trouble relating to him and his wartime experience.
Peggy is played by Teresa Wright and she is the heart of the film because she is not only the connection between Al and Fred but also the most clear headed of the characters who tries to help both her father and new friend get back to where they need to be.
This film work on so many levels and still remains relevant even after so many years because of the way that veterans need to still find their way back into their old lives upon returning from the horrors of war.
MovieRob’s Favorite Trivia – To avoid awkwardness when he first met his fellow cast members, Harold Russell made a point of reaching out with his hooks and taking their hands, thus putting them at ease with his disability.(From IMDB)
Rating – Oscar Worthy (10/10) (no change from original review)
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