- Movie Rating -

Hope and Glory (1987)

| February 19, 1988

I have a deep and abiding appreciation for movies that treat kids like kids.  Far too often Hollywood wants them to be junior-league adults with smart mouths and the ability to outrun a police cruiser.  John Boorman’s Hope and Glory is about the experience of being a child in London during World War II at a time when just being alive is a luxury.

Hope and Glory sees the world through the eyes of a young boy who is smart and curious, who sees the wonderment of the world for all of its guns and ammunition and planes and tanks but possibility without the full understanding of their impact.  

His name is Bill (Sebastian Rice Edwards) and there is always a feeling that he can see the sadness and tragedy of the war but doesn’t comprehend its larger impact.  His only direct emotional impact comes when it is happening at the moment, when his father goes off the war or during the nightly bombing raids.

He lives with his mother (Sarah Miles) and his father (David Hayman) who is soon drafted, leaving her to tend to not only the household but Bill and his sisters Dawn and Sue, the latter of which is now a teenager and has taken an apparently unhealthy interest in the Canadian troops who are stationed in the area.

For Bill, the war yields a sense of excitement, but is all in front of him, unlike his mother who understands the war to be nothing more than bullets and bloodshed.  In the morning, after the raids, he finds pieces of shrapnel in the yard, some still hot.  When he goes to school, we see through his eyes that the headmaster is more terrifying than any Nazi.

The movie begins in 1939 on a very specific note, as the entirety of his London suburb came to a standstill as Churchhill announced that England was now at war and all of the age-appropriate males were drafted and then carted off to the front.  Not having the full framework of what this means, the children in the area are kind of thrilled that the air raids have made craters and left shrapnel that they quickly turn into an ersatz playground.  Added to that is the joy of school being closed due to the raids, to which one girl happily says “Thank you, Adolf!”

What I appreciated about this film is that it never seems to have an agenda.  Boorman lived through most of these events and his canvas is one of memory.  The movie is very matter-of-fact.  It does seem to rise to a climax or to create stories.  He wants to paint a portrait of what it was like to experience that brief window of time just before the cynicism of adolescence kicked in that was happening at a moment when the world was at war.

When the movie was over, I wanted another hour.  I wanted more of this world.  I wanted to see Bill experience his adolescence.  That’s a good sign.  It says that Boorman has created something special, something personal.  It is a terrific film.

About the Author:

Jerry Roberts is a film critic and operator of two websites, Armchair Cinema and Armchair Oscars.
(1987) View IMDB Filed in: Drama