Hope and Glory.
Written and Directed by John Boorman
At the USA Janus
NINETEEN--EIGHTY seven is not the international year of the child, but moviemakers obviously aren't aware of this. This year has marked the release of a slew of films that focus on pre-teens, such as My Life as A Dog, Russkies and Big Shots. Now John Boorman, director of The Emerald Forest, gets into the act with his own tale of growing up, the semi-autobiographical film Hope and Glory.
Set in World War II Britain, Hope and Glory is a mediocre musing on the era that is sometimes gripping, often humorous, but always entertaining-it's a combination of spectacle and soap opera.
Sebastian Rice-Edwards plays sensitive young Bill, a boy meandering his way through the rubble and emotional chaos of war-torn London suburbia. A bit of an imp, but lovable nonetheless, Billy is as attached to his shrapnel collection as to his mother. Hope and Glory traces Bill as he grows out of his shyness, and seven-year-old Rice-Edwards captures the spirit of his character.
Bill's sister Dawn (Sammi Davis) is only fifteen, but with the war on, she's already got a soldier beau. "It's the war," her mother says. "It's quick, quick, quick." Dawn replies, "I'm 15, still in school, and I want to be a nun when I grow up." A few months later she's pregnant.
But mother Grace (Sarah Miles) is no saint, either. She married her lover's best friend because he could provide her stability. And--surprise, surprise--she's regretted the marriage ever since. Enter stupid subplot number one: with father away at war and Mac the lover still in town, and with Mac's wife Molly about to leave him, he tries to rekindle old flames with mixed results.
Susan Woodbridge, who plays Molly, turns out to be the film's biggest disappointment. She gave a strong performance as Daphne Manners in TV's The Jewel in the Crown, but she plays a minor and unmemorable character in this film.
Throughout Hope and Glory Boorman proves unable to balance the serious nature of the events he depicts and the humorous episodes he describes. The serious often descends into the sentimental and the humorous into the cute. One moment, the family's house is burned to the ground, forcing them to move in with mother's grandparents. But no sooner are they there then Grandpa's comic zaniness changes the mood, as he interrupts breakfast on the veranda to shoot at a rat in his vegetable garden. The scene is absurd enough to make a Scrooge laugh, but it hangs loosely between serious scenes of death and destruction.
At times, Hope and Glory tries to be an artsy film, but Boorman should have skipped the ridiculously Freudian dream sequences as well as the numerous subplots which end up being trite. Nor does Boorman's use of newsreel clips and radio speeches give any flavor of the era, partly because the director generally shows us what we've seen before in other movies.
Hope and Glory is Hollywood kitsch with an English accent. It can be tacky and sentimental, but it's perfect for those seeking an enjoyable and untaxing night at the movies.