Directed by William Wyler
Nominated for 8 Oscars, Won 7
Up Against: Henry V, It's A Wonderful Life, The Razor's Edge, The Yearling
The Best Years Of Our Lives is a story about returning to everyday life after serving in WWII. This movie tells about 3 soldiers stories, all of whom meet on a plane on their way home to Boone City. Fred, who worked in planes and dropping bombs is returning to a wife he met while training, married soon after, and was deployed after only being married a month. He hardly knows her. Homer is a young bloke who lost his hands when his ship was sunk, and is returning home to a girl he hopes will still want to marry him. Al was an Infantry Platoon Sergeant, and has been married for 20 years and realizes his children have grown up while he's been away. All are returning to jobs they don't love, and find it immensely difficult to adjust. All 3 men's lives intersect with each other and even though they didn't know each other during the actual war, they make ties to each other that are unbreakable.
Though this picture clocks in at 2hrs and 50 minutes, this film had me captivated the whole time. It's not simply about soldiers returning from war (though that's a large part), it's about life, and finding value in what you do, and loving people, and falling in love, and being the best you can be and being accepted by others.
While a story about a soldier returning from war makes for a cliche story, this was one of the first films to be done after WWII. I thought the film was insightfully done. It was made very soon after WWII ended, and gave some good insight on things I'd never thought of. Al's son is talking with him about side-effects of the nuclear bombs dropped in Hiroshima, asking about side-effects. His son, knowing he'd been there, assumed he would know more. Al didn't know very much. Additionally, his daughter was telling him about the struggle on the home front, something he also wasn't aware of. It's not something I'd really thought of. You assume people knew what was happening on both sides, but this wasn't the case.
Let me just say the acting in this film was great. The man who played Homer, Harold Russell, is also a war veteran. He really did lost his hands when he was filming a training film in 1944, after an explosive he was holding accidently detonated. Harold Russell additionally won an Honoray Oscar that year "for bringing hope and courage to his fellow veterans". Harold won the Oscar for Best Supporting Actor, and did he deserve it. Having lived through the experience of actually losing his hands, I'm sure Harold was able to connect with Homer quite intimately. He really tapped into the heartbreak and the awkwardness of people around him, and made Homer become 3D. Additionally, Fredric March, who played Al, won Best Actor that year. Again, he play the part so well. The ladies in the film were also fun, especially Teresa Wright, who played Al's daughter Peggy, who finds herself in a triangle with Fred, the newly-wed who's only really getting to know the girl he married. She's whip-smart, and funny, and Wright portrayed her so well.
This movie was just well put-together and was quite touching. The scenes of the soldiers reuniting with their families and loved ones had me tearing up a little, and I found myself really getting into the story. Will Homer get over what happened and be able to love Wilma? Does Fred really love Marie? And what will Peggy do, now that she's fallen in love with Fred? It was a good tale, and it was a great example of a "full package" film that are deserving to win Best Picture. However, it wasn't my favourite film on the list. It did start to drag on at some points (being the almost 3 hour film that it is), and some story lines were a tad dry, but it was a good movie, and definitely a touching one.
Music- 7.5/10 Emotional Connection- 8/10
Overall Enjoyment- 7.5/10
Overall Package- 8/10