Title: Hope and Glory
Country: UK, USA
Genre: Comedy, Drama
Director: John Boorman
Writer: John Boorman
Music: Peter Martin
Cinematography: Philippe Rousselot
HOPE AND GLORY is the protean John Boorman’s autobiographic re-enactment of his childhood during WWII, in the suburban London, the Rowan family, Bill (Rice-Edwards) is an ordinary 10-year-old schoolboy with parents Grace (Miles) and Clive (Hayman), he has an elder sister Dawn (Davis) and a younger one Dawn (Muir). The film begins just before the war, through Bill’s eyes, it endearingly portrays how the war has influenced and altered their life, and very rarely in a vivaciously snappy tone, which sets itself apart from the usual clusters of heavy-handed war travails.
“How is your war?” when Clive comes back for Christmas after voluntarily joining the army, he asks one pal. War does take its toll on everyone with different repercussions, exclusively steers in the homestead life during wartime, Boorman excellently carves an outstanding ensemble piece out of a structurally formal script, apart from the direct threat from frequent air-raids, life continues its course, Grace is left to take care of three children and grows closer to Mac (O’Connor), Clive’s brother, who is in an unhappy marriage with Molly (Wooldridge), and both betrays their own feelings, but refrained afterwards. The sweet sixteen Dawn rebelliously falls for a young France-born soldier Bruce (Barr); while Bill himself joins in a local boys’ gang and becomes obsessed with shrapnels. After a fire destroys their house, they relocate to Grace’s parents’ living near a river, where the children spend a wonderful summer time and they decide to settle down.
Boorman also engages in establishing onerous visual spectacles to widen the scale of an epic vibe, constructs an impressive set of the neighbourhood which is constantly under the demolition of bombing, conjures up the giant barrage balloons, which can befuddle younger generations for its utility.
The all-British (bar Barr) cast achieves an handsome task with well-toned kitchen-sink accessibility instead of larger-than-life theatricality. As his only acting project so far, Sebastian Rice-Edwards is another cute-on-the-eye kid scanning the trials and tribulations of adult world through his innocent eyes, and indeed, he is truly revelling in it, in the fabulous coda, when his school is razed by the bomb, his sincere happiness is so tangible even the line “thank you, Adolf Hitler” sounds like a resounding mantra to encourage people to endure the hard times.
The usually high-strung Sarah Miles puts on a brave face as a mother of three, sustains the household under dire straits; Sammi Davis, vividly embodies the young-and-rebellious type, but never over-stresses the standard stench of obnoxiousness and obdurateness. David Hayman’s Clive, emits a more satirical presence as the blueprint of an ideal family man who decidedly joins the army out of the spur of patriotism, ends up as a typist nowhere near the war-zone. O’Connor and Wooldridge, the former is comprehensively tagged with a nice-guy label, while the latter is so unsatisfied with her dead-water marriage and becomes overtly proud of her amoral affairs.
But, amongst of all, it is Ian Bannen, as grandpa George, who is the real deal, not comes into the scene until the third act, he is an grumpy old patriarch, a male-chauvinist, names his four daughters Grace, Faith, Hope and Charity, since they are the merits wanting in him, and grumbles they are all married to non-achievers. He arbitrarily infuriates his wife during the Christmas reunion by brashly reciting all his old flames’ names (which is quite a long list), but at the same time, he takes on the duty as a father figure, plays cricket with his grandson and teaches him how to steer a punt, uttering “never give up the punt for the pole”, who doesn’t want a grandpa like him?
Nominated for 5 Oscars, including BEST PICTURE, and BEST DIRECTOR, the film debatably the crest of Boorman’s career, life is full of drama and tears, but even at its bleakest, there is always humour and optimism within, that’s why HOPE AND GLORY works.
P.S: News arrives that Boorman has made a sequel of it, QUEEN AND COUNTRY (2014), which has debuted at Cannes this year but I’ve yet to see, it is greatly admirable and grateful to see this octogenarian never stop working.