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Hope and Glory

Despite the many air-raid sirens and bombs, few coming-of-age stories are as sweetly charming as John Boorman's Hope and Glory. Set in London during the early months of World War II, the film is both serious and funny, with typically dry British humor offsetting the heavy wartime emotions of fear, anger, sorrow, and need. It's impossible not to smile, for example, when gas-masked schoolchildren recite their multiplication tables in a bomb shelter — their lives are in danger, but life (and arithmetic) must go on. Boorman, who both wrote and directed the episodic film, based it on his own childhood, which explains why the characters are so convincing. They're the Rohan family — mom Grace (Sarah Miles), who can't forget what might have been; happy-go-lucky, patriotic dad Clive (David Hayman); emotional, fun-loving teenager Dawn (Sammi Davis); cute little sister Sue (Geraldine Muir); barking mad Grandfather George (Ian Bannen); and, of course, Boorman's onscreen alter-ego Billy (Sebastian Rice Edwards), the seven-year-old boy at the center of the film. For Billy, the war is frightening, but it's awfully exciting, too — there's shrapnel to collect, rubble to smash, and the constant possibility of the unexpected, whether it's a German pilot parachuting into the vacant lot across the street or his sister falling desperately in love with a Canadian soldier. The lad revels in the unpredictability of it all, excited to see what new experience each day will bring, and approaching them all with the same innocent curiosity, from hunting for live ammunition to learning how to pole a boat down the river. The adults, meanwhile, struggle to find order amidst chaos, lest their well-structured lives completely fall apart; which, life being life, they eventually will anyway. In the end, young and old alike realize that it's the people, not the things or the buildings or the routines of daily life, that really matter — a predictable epiphany, perhaps, but one that's touching all the same. The cast is almost uniformly excellent, with Rice Edwards a particular standout as Billy; his mix of little-boy apprehension and big-boy bravado is dead on (and he bowls a mean cricket match, too). Hope and Glory has held up well since its 1987 debut, and it's nice to see it now on DVD from MGM. The letterboxed transfer (1.66:1) is clean, and the color is as good as can be expected, considering that Hope and Glory is an indie flick and was filmed without all the blockbuster bells and whistles. Audio options include English and French mono tracks, plus French and Spanish subtitles. Theatrical trailer, keep-case.
—Betsy Bozdech

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