Oscars Challenge #41: Mrs. Miniver (1942) Movie Review
I won't be surprised if a movie shown during the late 1930s or early 1940s is war propaganda. It could be a newsreel, novel, protest, or in this case, a film. World War II was happening during this period, and you could not help but join the sides of whoever was right or wrong.
Mrs. Miniver is more than just the titular character and the flower named after her. The message it brings to its audiences makes this film something to watch.
The story follows the life of Mrs. Kay Miniver and her family in a fictional village outside London. She, her husband Clem, and their three children, Toby, Judy, and Vin, live comfortably. They also live with 2 of their helpers, Gladys, the housemaid, and Ada, the cook. She is very popular in her village; one of the villagers even named a flower after her who wanted to participate in their annual village flower show.
When World War II begins, Mrs. Miniver's eldest son, Vin, returns home from Oxford University and meets Carol, the daughter of Lady Beldon, a rich successor who owns the Beldon Hall. The two had their disagreements due to their class differences but soon fell in love with each other. The war begins to crawl closer to their village, and Vin feels he wants to contribute and join the Air Force. He qualifies as a fighter pilot and is assigned to a base near their home. He devises a unique signal for his family to ensure he is safe. After his first stint, he proposes to Carol. Several boat owners and Clem offered their services to participate in the Dunkirk evacuation.
One morning, Mrs. Miniver wanders around the village. She stumbles upon a wounded German pilot hiding in her garden. He threatens her at gunpoint and demands food and a coat. He also mentions that Germany will be victorious and will overcome its enemies. She feeds him, and when he passes out due to exhaustion, she calmly calls the police to escort him. Clem returns home tired from Dunkirk.
Lady Beldon talks to Mrs. Miniver about Vin's possible marriage to her granddaughter. She mentions that she is too young to marry, but Mrs. Miniver refutes it by saying that the Lady was also young when she got married. Vin and Carol married, and they went on a honeymoon in Scotland. Vin again enlisted to join the fight and soon found themselves in the crossfire when the war finally reached their village. During the bombing raid, the Minivers hide in a shelter in their garden. To keep themselves calm, the parents read fairy tale stories to their children. The following day their house was damaged but is still standing.
During their annual flower competition, Lady Beldon doesn't accept that she is the winner. She announced that the Miniver rose was the deserving victor. Then an air raid alarm sounded across the village, and the people took shelter in Beldon Hall. Although dangerous, Carol and Mrs. Miniver drove Vin to the base to join the fight. As they went home, an ensuing dogfight made them stop for safety. A German plane crashed near their car, and Mrs. Miniver noticed that Carol was wounded. She hurriedly went home, but she died soon after. When Vin returns from battle, ironically, he survives, and his wife perishes.
The villagers assemble at the damaged church, and the vicar delivers a powerful sermon addressing the people about the war that must be fought.
It's nice to know that, in reality, there is really a garden rose called "Mrs. Miniver."
I love Mrs. Miniver as a character. At first, you think of her as someone who has everything: a lovely home, a caring husband, appreciative neighbors, and loving children. But when war hits, she mostly stays calm, even if one of her sons could die in battle. Her attitude and compassionate nature allow her to decide and think accordingly. However, when Carol dies, we see her as vulnerable as the others. She is played by the beautiful and talented Greer Garson, who also won the Best Actress award. She absolutely deserved it.
Carol and Lady Beldon might have been the characters you initially hate. But they indeed grow on you as the story goes. Lady Beldon is selfish at first but soon becomes compassionate because, in war, the class system is irrelevant. It doesn't matter if you are rich or poor. If your house is bombed, it will still be destroyed. Carol is played by Teresa Wright, while May Whitty plays Lady Beldon. Both were nominated in the Best Supporting Actress category, but Teresa was declared the winner. I absolutely won't mind if they share the award. Both ladies deserved it.
I like that the film added several events, like the Dunkirk evacuation. Since World War II had not ended during the film's premier, the ending is also very open-ended. I don't know if people at that time knew when the war would end, but it must have been challenging, especially if you dislike fighting and killing.
I still cannot imagine a war film made while it is still happening. It makes it more realistic because events are still fresh from their minds and not taken from the different source material.
"This is not only a war of soldiers in uniform. It is the war of the people, of all the people." (An excerpt from the long speech near the end of the film).
I love the lines the vicar delivered. It's full of anger, grief, courage, and disappointment. You can really feel each word's meaning as he speaks it out loud to the people. I feel like it is what the people think during the war. It is truly incredible.
If you round up the Academy Award Best Picture winners in the 1940s, Mrs. Miniver might be in the top three.
I liked the film because it delivered a timely emotional impact during World War II. It may be a propaganda movie, but I still like the story. I also recommend it to others who want to watch something different from a typical drama film.
4 out of 5 stars.