Hope and Glory (1987)

Hope and Glory (1987), written, produced and directed by John Boorman.

Fine, semi-comic yet moving presentation of the first year of WW2 as seen by a ten year old boy, based on the director's life. Young actor Sebastian Rice-Edwards is just superb, but never made another movie. [Later: until the sequel Queen & Country (2014)]. Five Oscar nominations, many other awards.

The background is the serious march of world history: from the declaration of war and start of the Phoney War, to the beginning of the Blitz and through the end of the Battle of Britain. We have great period detail of suburban life and the Home Front, and a scene of the mass evacuation of children.

But for young Billy it's a pretty good time. School is often interrupted and he can run wild with the other kids in the bombed out buildings, committing new mass destruction of their own. He has the start of a good shrapnel collection. Dad builds an air-raid shelter in the backyard and puts the car up on blocks. The neighborhood gets its own barrage balloon. (Ever wonder that that was about? It was bad luck for low-flying bombers to run into the cables and sometimes they held explosives. Keeping the bombers higher made them easier to track with anti-aircraft fire).

He starts learning about sex in the old fashioned way, and his big sister, fifteen and growing up fast, is doing some advanced dating with a Canadian soldier. From overheard conversations he realizes his mother and father have some sad history from years long before he was born.

In some ways his mother doesn't mind the coming of the war either. When everyone is poor and shabby together there is no need to keep up appearances. The men have somber reflections on the cost of the war, the injustice of who pays for it, and the promises made to them and broken after the first war.

The final half hour is almost a different story. After their house burns down the family moves in with the grandparents in an idyllic country place on the river. Grandad is a grumpy eccentric who keeps a shotgun near the dinner table: "Never let a rat sneak up on you, Bill!" The kids are wild and free.

Great cast all around, with Sarah Miles as mom and Ian Bannen as the grandfather (I love that guy). Well photographed by Philippe Rousselot.

The DVD is 4:3 letterboxed. I've seen worse and better. Notice a 1980s pattern here: films that were new when DVD was young get the worst treatment. The PAL disc is more recent but I can't tell from the online sources whether it is anamorphic.

Later: the Olive Films Blu-ray is very good.