by Sam Juliano
John Boorman’s Hope and Glory stands apart from nearly-all other World War II-themed films in that it presents an idyllic view of terrible events, seen through the eyes of a ten-year old boy. By displaying the humor and the resilience of the boy’s family and the British people in general, the film at first broaches denial, and then segues into domestic life wrought under danger and hardship, where luck plays a large part in the survival game. Hope and Glory is for it’s writer-director a semi-autobiographical work centering around his own experiences of a child growing up during the war, and of the psychology of a nation not yet ready for such a calamity. When a school teacher quips “a few bombs may wake up this country” and the boy’s mother complains that they’re “starting a war on such a beautiful day”you know that many aren’t prepared for, nor aware of the deadly battle of wills that is to soon ensue.
Young Bill Rohan, played by a spunky young actor named Sebastian Rice Edwards, lives with his parents and two sisters in a London suburb. His father, who is too old to serve in combat, is assigned to a military desk job early in the film, so the young boy is surrounded by females and a close friend of his mother. His daily routine is in large measure to attend school, engage in mischief with friends, and scour through the wreckage caused by bombs that penetrate the blimp defense employed around the country. You don’t have to be British to be stirred by an emphatic school master’s patriotic speech invoking Churchill and and the brave young warriors enlisted to defend the country, with the strains of Elgar’s “Pomp and Circumstance” underscoring the noble defiance. When Billy holds up the cover of a war periodical at the end of the sermon, we’re reminded that the kids think it’s a big adventure, no different that when Billy plays with his collection of soldiers before going to bed. And few mothers won’t be able to relate to a wrenching scene when Bill’s mum breaks down a the train station, at the planned prospect of sending Billy and his youngest sister away to safer pastures until the end of the war, only to change her mind and be rejected by the officials. (more…)