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The Best Years of Our Lives
Three wonderful loves in the best picture of the year!
The Best Years of Our Lives is a classic film from director Williams Wyler about three war veterans. The film earned seven Oscars in 1946.
Film #23 of Project 40
”I'd stand up for you, kid, til I drop.”
The Best Years of Our Lives has a special place among the movies made about WWII, you may expect to see some sort of a heroic movie celebrating the valor and sacrifice of those young men who went to the brutal battlefields of war but William Wyler’s film takes a totally different path. It might be one of the very earliest movies exploring the joyless and ruined lives of individuals who experience the horrors of war as Wyler zooms on a triangle of American war veterans who return home to continue their normal lives but soon realize that the experience they have gone through will cast…
The other day, I found myself watching a lovely episode of China Beach entitled "The Thanks of a Grateful Nation". The story follows Dodger as he returns home from Vietnam and struggles to reintegrate into everyday life. It reminded me that we have a lot of Vietnam-centric films on this topic. And it occurred to me I had never seen the granddaddy of all 'coming home' films; I decided it was time to fix that oversight.
Best Years of Our Lives is not the first 'coming home' film. (See the John Gilbert silent classic "The Big Parade" for a heartbreaking example from World War I.) But it's this film that to this day is one of the top 100 moneymakers…
Encapsulating the worrisome uncertainty of a post-World War II America, The Best Years of Our Lives is an albeit long-winded three-pronged romantic drama but with a realism. Which is a strange way to describe I suppose, since realism is constantly in flux - constantly changing alongside time and events and personal experience, but for its time - this film was considered a realistic portrayal of three veterans' and their return home to a fictitious town by the name of Boone City. They're all of different military rank, different class but become pals on their journey home.
When they arrive home: life has changed for them. They each have potential/current wives and must reintegrate into civilian life negotiating their love life…
I'm struggling to think of what a contemporary equivalent of this would look like.... Something from Hollywood with A-list actors that confronts the emotional and psychological toll of war on fully realized characters while still working as masterfully filmed melodrama... How mentally malnourished are people who hold the (demonstrably false) opinion that new Hollywood movies are somehow more sophisticated than "old ones?" We've been at war for over a decade and we get a few Lone Survivors a year, but where are the stories about soldiers at home? Too uncomfortable to confront, I suppose.
The perfect movie.
I cried three times during this film. Then I cried again as I recounted to my wife what made me cry the first time I cried during the film. If I tried to write about the moment now I would probably tear up.
And The Best Years of Our Lives isn't even heartbreakingly sad. It never wallows in misery. It is even funny at times. Really it's just wonderfully human. And it is full of so many powerful little moments that translate amazingly well 70 years after it was made.
I didn't expect to be so blown away by this film, but I supposed the fact that it was expertly written, acted and directed helped too.
This film has so much warmth and emotions with respective characters, it can enlighten your mood and feel good about humanity.
Unrealistic but very inspiring nonetheless
I was definitely ready for a lighter movie after “The Lost Weekend”. While this movie isn’t anything too light (172 minutes!!!), it did have a little bit of everything: humor, romance, drama. I felt it did an excellent job at representing the American family altered by WWII. It had a plethora of characters, each memorable and played perfectly. The three story lines were detailed enough that the viewer was captured for the entirety of the film. I enjoyed the story of Homer the best… Harold Russell had the most endearing performance in my opinion even though it had the least amount of airtime. I don’t think I would willing watch this movie again just because of it’s length, however I would recommend it to others interested in WWII movies.
Smart and, in its own way, daring script. These characters are deep and multidimensional. Their problems are real, relatable and sympathetic, and the movie makes a lot of surprising indictments of the war, its affect on the country, and society's response to their returned "heroes." The movie's shot sophisticatedly also, w/o flat scenes and w/ interesting angles/effects. This really is a good movie, and my only reservations with it are the length (and maybe the amputee's fairly simplistic plot resolution).
War changes people.
Deserves its high reputation and then some, and actually falls in the small category of "long films that need to be long, and are perfectly-paced." Fred walking through the airfield with all the discontinued planes waiting to be scrapped is a haunting, evocative image--it's like a dinosaur graveyard. All the emotional nuances are just right. Also, Harold Russell definitely deserved both of the Oscars he got for playing Homer: it's absolutely amazing to me, watching his performance, that he wasn't a trained actor.
Still one of my favorite movies.
"I was afraid you wouldn't be able to stand up for me."
"I'd stand up for you, kid, til I drop."
One of Hollywood's finest films.
Oh man, this was amazing.
In a decade filled with war films, some pre-war, some post-war.
This is definitely the best post-war one.
William Wyler did an outstanding job at directing. The way he juggled so many characters, and how he gave each one their time to develop and feel real and human.
The acting is also fantastic. Especially from Harold Russell. What a guy.
He actually served in the war, and was injured. He had no acting experience at all before this, I can't believe it. A inspiring performance, he was honored with…
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