Mrs. Miniver (1942)
Setting: rural England at the beginning of World War II
Kay Miniver - Greer Garson
Clem Miniver - Walter Pidgeon
Vin Miniver - Richard Ney
Carol Beldan - Teresa Wright
Lady Beldan - Dame May Whitty
Premise: A series of vignettes that tells the story of a middle class family at the beginning of World War II.
My Thoughts: Honestly I always confused this movie with the Ghost and Mrs. Muir which is a book I've read dozens of times so it took me awhile to get around to watching it as I thought I already knew the story. But now that I've seen it (three times) I have a hard time writing my thoughts on it as I loved this movie so much. However, if I really really sit and make myself think about the flaws there are a few. The Miniver's two small children are pretty awful and thankfully aren't on screen that much. I do think the slightly over the top cutesy/whiney child acting was popular at the time because I have seen a number of children in other films from this time period come off the same way. The beginning is a bit slow though I found it charming as it introduces the viewer to the Miniver household before it's touched by war. And I suppose it could be said that it's a little saccharine at times but I would fiercely disagree with you there!
Now for the good! The casting is perfection. Greer Garson absolutely glows as Kay Miniver and the others are just a delight. The pacing is wonderful. While it does start off a little slow the intensity builds but never seems artificial and I never felt like my emotions were being manipulated or that it was slipping into melodrama even though there were several times I had tears in my eyes (and a few times I laughed out loud).
One thing that really surprised me was how in the middle of a war zone the homefront in England really was. I had heard about bomb raids in London and all that but somehow it never really clicked with me. By the end I'm so caught up in the lives of the characters that it takes me a moment to realize that the war bonds being advertised at the end are no longer for sale.
What Makes This An Essential: The moments. There are so many incredible moments that were just so special. The shot of Kay's face as her oldest son announces that he wants to be an RAF pilot. Kay and Clem having a "perfectly normal" conversation as they hunker in a bomb shelter while the world explodes outside trying desperately to keep the fear out of their voices so as not to frighten their children. Lady Beldan's face as she announces the winner in the flower show. When Kay listens to planes flying overhead after an exhausting day hoping to hear the signal that one of those pilots is her son coming home safe. Kay and Clem joking about just what there son is going to believe in on this visit home. I think every viewer can find their own moment that they can't help but deeply relate to and won't be able to resist falling in love.
Read alike? While this was inspired by a book of the same name the book and the movie have very little in common as most of the book takes place in the mid 1930s where the war is not a factor. In terms of a real read alike I'd suggest The Chilbury Ladies' Choir by Jennifer Ryan.