Mrs. Miniver (1942)
Reviewed on 2011 June 1
I didn’t know much about this movie, except I understood it to be about a British family, headed by the title character, that stiff-upper-lipped their way through the beginning of WWII. I sat down to watch it last night, and I confess I came close to abandoning it in the beginning. That would have been a mistake. It does take a while to get going, but once the main characters are introduced and we see their personalities, the story starts zooming along, and it’s a strong one.
Mrs. Miniver (Greer Garson) is first introduced to us on a grand quest…to buy a hat. The brewing war is on everyone’s mind but so far didn’t yet reach England, and so far life for this family seems to be going on as usual. Mrs. Miniver likes looking good for her husband (Walter Pidgeon), probably viewing it as just another part of her daily routine. Mr. Miniver has his own guilty pleasure parked out in their driveway, and all this “drama” for their purchases just shows how much the Minivers love each other. Their son Vincent (Richard Ney) is home from Oxford, and the family goes to church one Sunday, only to hear the fateful announcement that England was forced into the war on Germany. The Minivers and everyone they know are going to have their lives completely upturned.
I know some critics dismiss this film as propaganda, and frankly, I don’t care. It’s still a good movie, and if you have problems with anti-Nazi propaganda, then you’re not someone I want to know anyway. The whole accent problem was distracting, but I got past that as well. The Dunkirk sequence was riveting, and the scene in the bomb shelter and the stoic reaction to the aftermath showed how tough these people were. William Wyler directed this and The Best Years Of Our Lives. He was born in Alsace while it was German and moved to the United States as a young man, and this film shows exactly what he thought of the Nazis. It’s appropriate he chose Helmut Dantine, an Austrian that was imprisoned for his anti-Nazi activity, to play a downed German pilot.
Three chocolate morsels and a high tea.