The Best Years of Our Lives

I was very impressed with this film in many respects. There are not many movies like this one, i.e. a movie made during a certain time period that is about that specific time period. This made it very challenging yet interesting to analyze.

In class, Dr. M showed us the trailer to this film. I did not know how much the producers wanted to romanticize this genre lead the viewers to think that this was going to be another love story. Maybe the intention behind this was that they did not want to explicitly express that this movie was going to tell the story of three WWII veterans returning home and how their lives would forever be changed. This topic may have hit too close to home at the time and playing that angle would have turned a lot of people away. Regardless, the strategy worked since millions of people went to the theaters each week (I think the number said in class was 9 million?), the film garnered seven Oscars, and it is included on AFI’s numerous lists of greatest-movie categories.

One thing I was disappointed about in class today, though, is that we never got a chance to compare this movie to the other ones seen in class. I felt I made a good contradiction between this one and Matewan, which we saw the previous week. Since I did not get a chance to blog about Matewan, I think I”ll just kill two birds with one stone. The thing about Matewan is that it is not that different than Best Years. The former was made in the 80’s and tells the story about labor unions in WV, an 80’s where labor unions were consuming the media again. However, this movie does not end with any closure (like Best Years does). The fate of the labor unions was unknown in the 20’s, as was the feeling in the 80’s as well. Best Years seems to solve much of the problems with love. Each soldier finds a woman who is willing to take back the man and adjust to their state of being. It seems far-fetched now, but it helped balance the movie’s perspective on what it was like for a soldier to return home and what their future held at that time (propaganda during WWII seemed to express that a soldier’s homecoming was all sunshine and flowers, when that was not the case at all).

I won’t even get into the specifics about the complexities of each soldier upon their return to their families, but I will say that it captured them very well and in very different ways. This led to many poignant scenes in the movie that I’m sure viewers from the 40’s would have been tear-jerking non-stop. Take, for example, the scene where Homer helplessly has his dad help him get ready for bed because of his lack of hands.

I am glad I got to see this movie, and it definitely falls in the same bubble as the other historically accurate films we have seen (Matewan, Last of the Mohicans, Glory, Amistad, Gone With the Wind). Furthermore, the movie itself serves as a bridge for connecting audiences of today and helping us relate to our current events.

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