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Saturday, April 28, 2018

HOPE AND GLORY -- DVD Review by Porfle

A pleasasnt but odd little film is writer-director John Boorman's semi-autobiographical HOPE AND GLORY (Olive Films, 1987), about a young boy whose family must endure the German bombing raids against London in WWII.

This bittersweet reminiscence is seen through a golden haze of nostalgia even as little Billy Rohan (Sebastian Rice Edwards) has his childhood permanently altered by the threat of his neighborhood becoming a bomb site and those around him, friends and loved ones alike, potential casualties.

It's odd, then, that this story is so comedic--in a subtle sort of way--and resolutely non-melodramatic.  The main emphasis is on Billy's fascination with the war, or at least his personal experiences with it, as well as the usual growing-up, coming-of-age kind of stuff (running with a gang of wild kids, playing "doctor" with a neighborhood girl, learning life lessons from eccentric relatives, etc.).

If it weren't for the occasional air raids and terrifying brushes with death and destruction, HOPE AND GLORY would be about on the same level as MEET ME IN ST. LOUIS as family-oriented nostalgia, albeit with much more off-color material such as big sister Dawn (Sammi Davis, looking much younger than she would just a year later in LAIR OF THE WHITE WORM) making out in her bedroom with her soldier boyfriend and Billy comparing cuss words with his rowdy new friends.

Sarah Miles (RYAN'S DAUGHTER) is a frowsy, blowsy dervish of domesticity as Billy's mom, Grace, whose boyish husband Clive (David Hayman) re-ups with the military and leaves her to keep the home fires burning for Billy, Dawn, and their little sister. 

Much of the grown-up interaction involves her clashes with rebellious Dawn and her melancholy over never connecting with her true love, neighbor Mac (Derrick O'Connor).  We see all this through Billy's eyes, a kid who's perceptive beyond his years, as he quietly observes the sometimes puzzling behavior of the adults while they're barely aware of his presence.

The film gives nods to various tropes of WWII London such as rationing, huddling fearfully into bomb shelters, and solemnly listening to their stuttering king's radio pep talks.  But as the very episodic story progresses, not really building much of a narrative in particular, it becomes mostly a slice-of-life tale with a gently feelgood ambience.

The war itself grows more distant later in the film when Grace and the kids go to the country for an extended stay with her parents, including Ian Bannen as her comically eccentric father George.  Here by the lazy river, Billy and George enjoy an idyllic childhood--Billy's first, George's second--playing cricket and fishing. 

I really can't reveal much more of the plot, because there really isn't that much of one to reveal.  HOPE AND GLORY just wants to introduce us to this likable, interesting family and let us live with them for awhile, sharing in their joys, sorrows, setbacks, and minor victories while a world war rages around them. 

Buy it at Olive Films

YEAR: 1987
LANGUAGE: ENGLISH (with optional English subtitles)
VIDEO: 1.66:1 Aspect Ratio; Color


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