Not much happens in This Happy Breed. Well, that's not strictly true. There are some major life changing situations but the characters deal with it all in such a British stiff upper lip kind of way that the film seems uneventful. It is anti-melodrama.
Based on the Noel Coward play, it is a very gentle film centering on the life of the Gibbons family in the period between the two world wars. The film does betray its theatre origins at times (in a similar way to Harvey). It does feel like they have just filmed a play. Get over that, and you've got a fantastic film for a Sunday afternoon that shows a slice of life from simpler times.
As previously mentioned, the acting is brilliantly understated. You would expect great things from Celia Johnson (Brief Encounter), Robert Newton (Treasure Island) and Sir John Mills (Hobson's Choice) and they all deliver. Also, Stanley Holloway is top fun as a neighbour who comes round and gets tanked with the father of the family (Newton). Malarkey a-go-go as they get discovered by the mother (Johnson) and both promptly salute her. Great stuff. Amy Veness plays the grandmother and she is basically my mum. When one of the characters comes in wearing a hat for a wedding she says, 'Oh.' And then proceeds to say something along the lines of, 'Well, if you're happy with it.' My mum to a tee.
This Happy Breed is a history lesson in easily digestible form. (I severely dislike history and I enjoyed it.) The family leave the back door open and think nothing of it. The ladies make their own dresses for the weddings with paper patterns. They eat oranges on Christmas day and not chocolate ones neither. This film works really well in partnership with Since You Went Away which shows the effect on family life when the father goes to war and with Glorious 39, a story about appeasement and the British Secret Service. I'm just hoping for a Blu-ray release soon.
If you like this you could also try:
Since You Went Away, Glorious 39, Hobson's Choice, Ice Cold in Alex.