Starring: Fredric March, Dana Andrews, Myrna Loy
Director: William Wyler
Running Time: 172 mins
The Best Years Of Our Lives is an American film about three World War II veterans who return to their old lives in a small suburban town, however they discover that they, and their families have changed considerably over the last 4 years, leaving their process of readjustment a whole lot harder than they first imagined.
This is a fascinating and hugely enjoyable classic. It’s an engrossing and human tale of the world of ex-servicemen readjusting to normal life after war, as well as an interesting look at class divides in American suburbia, brilliantly topped off with a delightful romance story right in the middle that makes this a film perfectly enjoyable for anyone.
The most interesting thing about this film was how it detailed the feelings and experiences of the veterans during the early phase of returning to normality. The story not only presents all of the expected hardships of the situation, such as accepting other people’s preoccupations with triviality and trying to forget the war, but there’s also a whole heap more of issues that this film tackles with respect to these men’s struggle to return to their day-to-day lives.
That’s also one of the saddest aspects of this film, how the men, after having sacrificed so much for their country, are returned to normal society having had their old lives totally torn away from them. This is evident in all three veterans, but mostly in the working class man, Fred, who, despite being kind-hearted and very strong, suffers enormously due to his lack of wealth upon his return to society, which really was saddening to see.
The cast is also absolutely fantastic. You could say that there is a main character, played by Dana Andrews, but to be honest, it’s an ensemble cast, in which every single performance is fantastic. Non-professional actor Harold Russell is fantastic and inspiring, Fredric March, Myrna Loy and Virginia Mayo are fascinating, and Teresa Wright, playing the mature young woman in search of love, was an absolute joy to behold, and, in my opinion, by far the best person in the whole film.
And then, the romance in the film is just the icing on the top of the cake. It’s a hugely uplifting tale of a love that is hugely taboo in suburban society of the time, and is by far the most exciting part of the movie, lasting powerfully right up until the beautiful finale, keeping me engrossed the whole way through, and absolutely delighting me whenever the going got tough somewhere else in the story.
However, there is one issue with this film: the running time. At nearly three hours long, it’s an epic, but the scale of the story is not so epic, being about small town life and individuals, which made me think that it didn’t really merit such a long running time. Also, the pacing of this film is extremely slow, and while it picks up towards the end to some extent, it is occasionally a little bit of a heavy watch.
Having said that, I can’t escape the fact that I love this film, because it’s so interesting, so well-acted and with such a lovely romance, and that’s why it gets an 8.1 from me.