Starring: Janet Gaynor, Charles Farrell, Albert Gran
Director: Frank Borzage
Running Time: 110 mins
7th Heaven is an American film about a lowly street cleaner who saves a young woman’s life, leading to a romance between the two of them that blossoms until the advent of war gets in the way.
In a way that only pre-sound era films seem to be, 7th Heaven is a lovely film, simply because it tells a sweet and pleasantly romantic story thoughout. It may not prove quite as effective when it comes to delivering some heavier emotion and drama, getting very bogged down in its second half, however it’s still a generally enjoyable and engaging watch that will put a smile on your face from time to time.
There have of course been thousands of light, fluffy romantic dramas down the years, and but there’s something about the genre in the silent era that makes it extra special. It’s in part definitely down to the dreamlike score that plays throughout the movie, as we’re removed one extra level from the real world, and as such it’s a lot easier to get lost in the more romantic side of the story, no matter how cheesy or fairytale-esque it may seem.
What’s more is that silent films also mean that actors’ performances are more heightened and emotional, and that’s exactly the case here, with leads Janet Gaynor and Charles Farrell putting in very hyperbolic performances, featuring a whole range of doughy-eyed facial expressions to get their characters’ emotions across without dialogue, as well as big physical gestures and hugs that give the film all the more fluffy an atmosphere throughout.
When it comes to the story, it’s far from history’s greatest love affair, but that doesn’t mean that you can’t have a nice time with it anyway. Again, it’s all feels a little more removed from reality, and that means that some of its less-than-original narrative points don’t feel all that frustrating, meaning that when the film is in full generic romantic swing, it’s a lovely watch.
Despite that, I can’t quite say that I was utterly enchanted by this movie. For one, it doesn’t really keep up that fairytale-esque romance throughout, instead switching atmospheres to a more dramatic air as we see war break up the blossoming romance between the two leads.
Now, the film is of course aiming to bring some real-world gravitas to proceedings, and fairly so, however I felt that it was already just so comfy in its fluffier self that when the drama came, and not in the most unpredictable or fascinating way ever, it just wasn’t as effective as I would have liked, leaving me a lot more bored with the story in the second half.
Overall, 7th Heaven is a sweet little film, when it’s at its best. It manages to prove fun and fluffy while going through the paces of a generic fairytale romance, but it’s fun regardless. However, the film’s switch in atmosphere halfway through proves disappointing, failing to keep your interest as it dives into a more dramatic and less entertaining part of the story, and that’s why I’m giving it a 7.0.