#128 / 365 – ‘The Best Years of Our Lives’ – 172 mins
IMDb Challenge #79 / 250 – Ranked #169 – Via DVD Collection
It’s the hope that sustains the spirit of every GI: the dream of the day when he will finally return home. For three WWII veterans, the day has arrived. But for each man, the dream is about to become a nightmare. Captain Fred Derry (Dana Andrews) is returning to a loveless marriage; Sergeant Al Stephenson (Fredric March) is a stranger to a family that’s grown up without him; and young sailor Homer Parrish (Harold Russell) is tormented by the loss of his hands. Can these three men find the courage to rebuild their world? Or are the best years of their lives a thing of the past?
War has always been a popular genre for film. However whilst most war films in circulation are only interested in portraying the battles and fighting on the front lines, ‘The Best Years of Our Lives’ is an understanding of what happens when the war is over and the servicemen are sent back home to their loved ones and try to re-adjust to civilian life, never an easy task.
Nominated for eight Oscars, it took home seven including Best Picture (beating an all-time favourite of mine ‘It’s A Wonderful Life’) and Best Director for William Wyler who later went on to achieve outstanding success with ‘Ben-Hur’.
There’s no real plot sustaining the film, its purely a character driven piece, where there’s no dazzling “epic” scenes, such as flashing back to explosive war scenes and it doesn’t need any, it’s almost that William Wyler as plunked down a camera amongst its strong ensemble cast to explore their intertwining stories – to make it the hallmark of great and unforgettable drama. There is one heart-breaking scene where Homer (played by real-life amputee, Harold Russell) shows his girlfriend what life would be like if she stayed with him, by getting her to undress him and put his prosthetic arms on, very moving.
This was my first viewing of ‘The Best Years of Our Lives’ and in all truthfulness because you become utterly involved in these chracters for whom you deeply care for and the warmth and satisfaction that you get that accompanies its conclusion, I could have easily watched it again – straight away.