Saturday, 29 September 2012

Review - Mrs. Miniver (1942 - Dir. William Wyler)

I was initially a little disappointed by this. This Happy Breed tells a similar story but from a working class point of view. Mrs. Miniver is all silly posh hats, flowers shows and the Lady of the Manor. All very middle/upper class and to me this felt less real.

As time went on and the film unfolded I began to see that regardless of class, the people alive during World War II all lived through similar situations and emotions. My heart was warmed slightly by this revelation. (It's now at 0.01 degrees above absolute zero. Toasty.)

Mrs. Miniver (Greer Garson) is the mum in your average middle class family of the time. She has a husband Clem (Walter Pidgeon) and three children. One of the children Vin (Richard Ney) has just come back from Oxford University and has plenty of ideas about the world. They also have a cook and a nanny, so Mrs. Miniver was free to play 'Black Ops II' all day against her buddies in the Women's Institute.

The film doesn't kick off until about forty minutes in when the inevitable war starts. This should have created a pretty dull first section. Instead we get to know all of the characters and two sub-plots are introduced to keep our attention: Vin's blossoming relationship with the granddaughter of the Lady of the Manor, Carol (Teresa Wright) and the peculiarly interesting tale of the rose competition at the local flower show. By the time the war begins in earnest we are fully invested in these characters, forty minutes well spent.

When the war starts, Vin joins the RAF as a fighter pilot and Clem dodges about in his little boat at Dunkirk. We get to see life from the person-left-behind's point of view (in a similar way to Since You Went Away). There is a brilliant scene of life in an air raid shelter that is cleverly recreated through the use of sound effects and some big burly blokes shaking the set. Not that you get to see the large rotund fellows, that's all part of movie magic.

It is clear from the start that this could be a tear jerker, but the writing is so good the tears (admittedly more a tear in my eye rather than full blown histrionics) come from unexpected places. One emotional moment is from the climax of the flower show. (I never thought I would think those words, never mind write them.) I won't spoil the other scene.

Although, Mrs. Miniver won me over I still prefer This Happy Breed, but it is a solid film. One of the character's arcs is particularly pleasing and appealed to my sense of fairness. Again, I won't spoil the moment for you. Also it has one of the most rousing church services I've ever heard. (That's something else I thought I'd never write.) Definitely recommended.

If you like this you could also try:
This Happy Breed, Since You Went Away.


  1. How dare those Germans disrupt our rose growing competitions!

  2. Great review!

    We're linking to your article for Greer Garson Tuesday at

    Keep up the good work!

    1. Cheers, thanks for that. I'll make sure that I have a look.