The Best Years of Our Lives (1946) Directed by William Wyler





(Review originally written at 29 August 2009)

This is one rather fine and almost 3 hour long epic running drama, that focuses around 3 WW II veterans from the same town, going back home after the war had ended.

It's a real interesting and subtly made drama, that isn't ever being melodramatic but always realistic and compelling with its themes and emotions. The movie handles some great subjects, especially for its time. You have to consider that this movie got made really just after the war had ended. Yet it already handles some of the themes war WW II veterans and also lots of later war veterans had to deal with. The world, their families and themselves all changed, with brings along some at times devastating effects but also often some hopeful things. They have to pick up their 'normal' lives again, with a job, their wives and the rest of their families. It shows how the veterans were often being treated and looked upon. This isn't just a movie glorifying the WW II veterans but also one that has the guts to be bold and straight-forward, by showing life how it truly is but never without the respect those deserve who all fought in the second world war.

I guess you still have to be an American though to fully appreciate this movie. You could say that this movie is a real Americana one, filled with pride and hope, for and about a generation, that should make American's feel warm from the inside. Not that the movie is being overly patristic or anything, it's just pride in a good and understandable way, that is still best appreciated by American's themselves.

The movie is being quite epic, mostly due to its long running time. Director William Wyler used its long running time to slowly set up its characters to build up the right themes and emotions for the movie. It makes "The Best Years of Our Lives" effective as a genre movie and perhaps still more accessible and less sappy than some of the other similar dramatic movies made during the same decade.

It's of course also really a real actors movie. Luckily the movie has some great actors in it, such as Fredric March, Myrna Loy, Teresa Wright and Dana Andrews. Real WW II veteran and amputee Harold Russell attracted the most attention at the time and even took home two Oscar's for his one role in this movie. He received a special award dedicated to him 'for bringing hope and courage to his fellow veterans through his appearance'. He lost both of his hands during the war due to exploding TNT during an exercise and ever since used hooks to get around. It's amazing how well he got around with them and how much he still could manage with it, without the help of others. This is mostly what earned him the Oscar because in all honesty I sincerely doubt that he would had won an Oscar otherwise. It's not like he is bad but he just wasn't a real actor anyway and also only appeared in just a few movies throughout his life.

Simply a great genre movie, that also still applies this present day with all of its themes.

8/10
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