NR, 172 min.
Director: William Wyler
Writers: Robert E. Sherwood, MacKinlay Kantor (novel)
Starring: Frederic March, Dana Andrews, Harold Russell, Myrna Loy, Teresa Wright, Virginia Mayo, Cathy O’Donnell, Hoagy Carmichael
“The Best Years of Our Lives” is one of those films you hear about when you’re transitioning from casual movie watcher to cineaste. It’s one of the must see classics. It won awards. It’s about something important. It’s unique.
So, you add it to your list of movies to watch. You might get around to it quickly if the cards happen to fall that way; but it’s from a by gone era. You can’t really place it in a genre. It’s a drama, and a long one, so you might not get around to it quickly. It sits there on your list and you think, “I really should watch that one.” But you don’t.
Take some advice. Rent it. Stream it. Watch it. Right now. It’ll do you good. It is all those things you assume. It is hard to distinguish as this type of movie or that type of movie, so you can watch it when you’re in this mood or that. I don’t think you need to be in any mood to watch it. It defies mood. It’s just good, and worth it.
What I write about it now will not change you mind, but watch it anyway. I can tell you it’s about three men returning home from their tours in World War II. I can tell you that one is a dashing man who was something of a something as a bombardier in the war, but wasn’t in his life before the war and must return to those same prospects and a wife he barely knows, who expects more. I can tell you that one is an older man with a family whose kids have grown into young adults in his absence. He’s a successful man who is welcomed back in his house and his job and yet he now sees it all differently. I can tell you one man is a double amputee who returns to a loving family and girlfriend who need to accept him on different terms, but it is he who must accept the new terms with which they accept him. Real life veteran amputee Harold Russell, who won a Best Supporting Actor Oscar for his performance, played the role.
None of these facts will tell you how essential it is for this movie to be seen by the serious cineaste. It’s essential for any American to see this film. It is an invaluable document of the hardships that post war veterans must go through. It was made in Hollywood’s Golden Age, and so the end is happier for these men than it was for many who served. Their story is wonderfully conceived and portrayed by the actors here, however. This is a must see film of American cinema.