Mrs. Miniver is a 1942 dramatic war film directed by William Wyler and stars Greer Garson and Walter Pidgeon. The film won six Academy Awards and had a sequel titled The Miniver Story, which came out in 1950.
The story revolves around a woman, Kay Miniver, and her do-good, loving English family, whose lives are affected by the onslaught of World War II. Her husband and eldest son enlist to aid in the war effort. Mrs. Miniver confronts a German pilot who lands in her rural village, and their home is ravaged by bombing and gunfire.
I think it would've been more appropriate if this film was called, "The Minivers" or "The Miniver Tales", or something of the sort. With a title that suggests a central female character, it's surprising to realize that the film deceives you. Mrs. Miniver provides no compelling evidence suggesting the spotlight shines mostly on its titular character. Instead, Mrs. Miniver is blurred into a collectivist rationale. Her family, as a whole, is where the attention lies, and aside from a few scenes, such as when she confronts the German pilot, Mrs. Miniver is no different than any other witness to England's fight against Germany. We watch her eldest son, Vin, fall in love with a girl named Carol, and later join the war effort. We witness her husband go off to help in the Dunkirk evacuation. Whether the family is in a bunker to shield themselves from bombing and gunfire, or when they are singing in church, Mrs. Miniver is not given the space or camera angles to stand out.
- The scene where Mrs. Miniver confronts the German pilot. This was a tense and well-designed scene. Mrs. Miniver sees the German pilot lying asleep in some bushes, and when she tries to steal his gun, he awakes and forces her to give him some food and milk. It's the first time the movie gives Mrs. Miniver some semblance of independence, and she manages to hold her own, despite the pilot sneering that the German bombers will come and destroy everything.
- The film takes a little too long to get started. The first act is dedicated to, shall we say, trivial matters such as Mrs. Miniver learning that a man she knows has named a rose after her, as well as watching Vin and Carol fall in love. Mrs. Miniver also buys a fancy hat to flirtatiously show off to her husband. There's barely any mention of war or fighting until a priest announces that England has declared war, and I would estimate this was around 40 minutes in. The somewhat jarring shift in tone is not really a surprise, but the transition from carefree and loving to heartbreak and travesty does not feel very natural or smooth.
Not an abhorrent film by any means, but Mrs. Miniver struggles with a slow start and a confusing inability to specialize its female lead. This is one of two Best Picture winners that's story can be described as not much more than famous historical events having effects on a person and/or family, with Cavalcade being the other one. If anything else, let this film be further proof that the Academy has, and always will be, suckers for historical and/or biographical films that, typically, are supposed to emotionally move you.
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