This 1942 film is by far one of my favorites. I first saw it as a little girl (one of the myraids of old black and white films set during WWII that we checked out of base libraries) and loved it then. I was quite pleased therefore to find a copy floating around at a Goodwill store.
The film follows the lives of the Miniver family during the beginnings of WWII. The Minivers are a typical middle-class English family...the eldest son is enrolled in Oxford and is home on vacation when the war is announced--from the pulpit of the village church.
Soon the eldest son, Vin, is in the RAF and Mr. Miniver is part of the home guard. The war comes close to home with bombings, a downed German pilot, and the men of the village being called out in the middle of the night to asisst in the Dunkirk rescue (that is a pretty neat scene).
Underlying the main story is the sub-plot of Vin and Carol's romance and the rivarly between Lady Belding and Mr. Ballard's roses--incidently, Mr. Ballard named his prize rose the "Mrs. Miniver".
The basic worldview of this film seems to be Christian--the faith of the people is shown as being part of their lives. In fact, the opening music (and threaded throughout the movie) is that of one my favorite hymns "O God, Our Help in Ages Past". That is one of the underlying themes of the movie--evidenced by Mr. Ballard's Scripture quotation (out of Psalms, I believe). (He is a gentle, kindly man.)
The Miniver's are a typical middle-class English family, servants and all. They are a close-knit family, from a loving relationship between husband and wife to a friendship amongst siblings. Vin, the eldest, is a student at Oxford when the film opens. Mr. Miniver is the head of his house, the man to whom his wife turns when life gets complicated. They have a few playful moments that lighten some of the mood in the film.
The romance between Vin and Carol wasn't as "fast" as I had remembered (I guess 11-year-olds miss a few things). Vin had spent his childhood observing Carol, granddaughter of Lady Belding, so when the two of the get thrown together, it's not really unsual that he soon has feelings for her. Carol is a little more reserved about the idea, wanting to make sure he's serious before taking any definite steps. There is some kissing between them, but (spoiler) it's interesting to note that Vin asks Carol if it'd be 'okay' before he kisses her the first time.
Which brings up some observations about Vin's character growth (some of which can only be mentioned in the form of spoilers, so if you don't want that, skip this paragraph). Of all the characters, Vin Miniver has the most character growth. Upon his arrival home from school, he's cocky, somewhat self-important (though still a nice kid), and rather opinionated--he is rather ungracious in his declaration of certain ideas. His temper is both stoked and softened (in that order) by the kindly challenge given him to put his ideas into practice by Carol. [If I may mount a soap-box momentarily...this particular instance shows how girls can gently encourage young men to follow their vision rather than just have grand ideas in the relm of the intellect.] Vin apologies later for losing his temper, though not redacting his ideas (which is fine). By the end of the film, Vin has become a man--gentle, strong, and compassionate. We see him put aside his own grief, great as it is, to show love to a similarly grieving person. In his grief, Vin does not go off on some hair-brain sucidal mission (which is probably what one would see in a modern film), instead, we see him with his family, in church, listening to words of comfort and encouragement...and then singing "Onward Christian Soldiers".
The homes of many of us have been destroyed, and the lives of young and old have been taken. There is scarcely a household that hasn't been struck to the heart. And why? Surely you must have asked yourself this question. Why in all conscience should these be the ones to suffer? Children, old people, a young girl at the height of her loveliness. Why these? Are these our soldiers? Are these our fighters? Why should they be sacrificed? I shall tell you why. Because this is not only a war of soldiers in uniform. It is a war of the people, of all the people, and it must be fought not only on the battlefield, but in the cities and in the villages, in the factories and on the farms, in the home, and in the heart of every man, woman, and child who loves freedom! Well, we have buried our dead, but we shall not forget them. Instead they will inspire us with an unbreakable determination to free ourselves and those who come after us from the tyranny and terror that threaten to strike us down. This is the people's war! It is our war! We are the fighters! Fight it then! Fight it with all that is in us, and may God defend the right.
I have included the words of the Vicar's closing speech in the bombed church--for these words are stirring and remind us not only of another battle we as Christians must daily fight, but that this was the reality for the people of the British Isles during WWII. Their civilians were bombed--old men, women, and children were killed. These people had an evil regime breathing down their throats and life was hard...and they held up bravely under it.
May God defend the right!
A Reformed Presbyterian girl who enjoys a good movie or a good book any ol' time.
Note: All images picked up online. No copyright infringment intended.