My current Top 5

My current Top 5


Number 29: The Best Years of our Lives (Best Picture Ranking)

The Best Years of our Lives tells a story that so often seems to be forgotten – what happens to soldiers when they return home from war? How does it affect their lives when they suddenly have to be back in ‘a normal society’? How did their families cope with the loneliness and how will they deal with the fact that some men have changed during the battles? The Best Years of our Lives uses three different characters to answer these questions.

There is Fred Derry, a good-looking soldier who was a bombardier in Europe. He married a woman a few days before he had to leave and basically returns to a stranger of whom he knows nothing about. Besides these difficulties in his private life he also has troubles to return into the working environment and he also suffers from nightmares of combat. Al Stephenson, on the other hand, comes back to his perfect home where his two perfect children and his perfect wife already wait for him and he can also immediately return to his perfect job at a perfect bank. But for Al things aren’t as perfect as they appear to be – he missed the most important years of his children’s lives since they are already grown-up and don’t seem to need their father anymore. He finds that people have gotten used to his wife being alone and he also has trouble to return to his old job since he sees things differently nowadays – and his constant need for a drink doesn’t help either. Homer Parrish is a young man who comes back to his loving family and his fiancée – but he lost his hands during the war and they have been replaced by hook prostheses. Homer has gotten used to them but he suffers very much from the fear that nobody else will ever get used to them.

These three different storylines are combined masterfully by William Wyler and this quiet character study is actually a gripping and touching story of three men struggling to return to their old lives while trying to find new ones at the same time. And this story is brought to life by a wonderful cast. Dana Andrews stands out as Fred Derry and it’s a shame that his performance was overlooked by the Oscars since he provides the major storylines and gives, by far, the most interesting performance. Harold Russell had never acted before and may have been used for this movie mainly because he was a real-life war veteran who actually lost his hands but his performance is absolutely wonderful and his portrayal of a man who doesn’t want to be pitied his entire life is very touching. Frederic March received the Oscar that Dana Andrews should have gotten and, even with my love for the movie itself, it remains a mystery how this happened – while he gives a very competent performance his character is constantly overshadowed by the others and his performance also never becomes truly outstanding. Myrna Loy and Teresa Wright as Al’s wife and daughter shine in their parts.

The three-hour long movie can be separated in three different sections that, unfortunately, vary in their degrees of excellence. The first hour that focuses on the return of the three men and their first days in their new/old life is movie magic and among the best that can ever be seen in this category. The second hour which begins to explore the life of the men in more detail is also still fascinating but the story loses a bit of its strength in the third hour when it puts the love story between Dana Andrews and Teresa Wright in the centre.

Overall, The Best Years of our Lives is a wonderful and extremely moving story that puts a new light on the life directly after World War II.


Louis Morgan said...

Again I agree, I really like how vivid they make the time and place in that film.

dinasztie said...

This was quite good though I don't love it that much.

Anonymous said...

This is a perfect film, I would have liked it if it were higher, such a brilliant production, I agree that Dana Andrews deserved more praise. William Wyler was simply a genius.