Time: 134 mins.
Rating: Not Rated
Won Academy Awards for Best Actress (Garson), Supporting Actress (Wright), Cinematography, Director, Screenplay and Best Picture. Received six additional nominations.
Mrs. Miniver is a rare war film, one that focuses on those left at home and their struggle to survive the onslaught of the enemy and the anxiety of impending loss. The story centers on the Minivers, a middle-class British family, during the early years of WWII. The battle against the Nazis becomes more than a mere topic of conversation when they are forced to confront the hard realities of this ever-growing conflict. Not only do they lose beloved friends to the draft, but their eldest son Vin (Ney) enlists as well, desperate to do his part for the cause. As if worrying about his safe return wasn't enough for Kay (Garson) to deal with, at night their small village is used for target practice by the highly destructive German Luftwaffe. Despite the daily privations and nightly raids, the villagers refuse to give in to fear and try to continue enjoying their daily lives. Mothers tend their homes, youngsters fall in love and the annual flower show proves to be a battle of showmanship the likes of which the town has never seen.
Garson's quiet dignity and determination keeps this tale, which is filled with heartache and danger, on an even keel, never allowing the film to be overly melodramatic or propagandistic. Though its message is clear the Germans are evil and must be stopped at any cost the storytelling is subtle and simple, letting the various events play out without histrionics. There's no doubt this film was made to boost public morale and support for the conflict, but it's also a deeply moving piece about the far-reaching effect wars enact on those both at the front and at home. Garson deserved every award she received for her level-headed, strong-willed, sweetly-engaging performance. Kay Miniver takes each day as it comes, battling hard to keep her family safe and happy despite the chaos around them. She never takes a moment for granted, knowing a stray bomb could shatter everything she holds dear. Her inner strength is her only weapon and it takes every ounce of willpower for her not to succumb to her fears.
That tragedy befalls the Miniver clan should not come as a surprise. I was, however, completely stunned by who took the fall. This doesn't happen very often for me films rarely stray from familiar patterns so I was equally pleased and devastated by the unfolding events. The firm hand of Wyler and the first-rate talent of Garson, Whitty, Wright (who also won an Oscar for her role) and Pidgeon make this unforeseen misfortune a deeply moving cinematic experience. Rarely is grief portrayed so perfectly and with as much class. Wyler doesn't manipulate the situation to garner tears, he lets the characters' honest interactions provide the drama and emotion. After watching many films made during the early 1940's which were all attempting to drum up support for the war MRS. MINIVER is one of the best of its genre, telling an even-handed, complex story despite its propagandist backbone. Unlike most of its contemporaries, the ideas and emotions captured within this film are just as viable today as they were 60 years ago, which is a remarkably sad thought. You'd think the human race would have learned. A powerful reminder of the toll even just wars exact on our world.