Bill Rowan (Sebastian Rice-Edwards) was nine years old when the Second World War started but he recalls it as if it were yesterday. He remembers war was declared on a Sunday and all the lawnmowers in the street stopped in unison and everyone crowded around their radios to hear the Prime Minister telling the nation the bad news. Yet rather than be filled with dread, as most of the population were, Bill was tremendously excited, with only the threat that he might be sent to Australia to live with his auntie dampening his enthusiasm...
This was writer and director John Boorman's reminscence of his war years, and a warm and lyrical memoir it was too. The events depicted largely ignored the tragedy of the conflict and concentrated on the comedy, not that Boorman entirely left out the fact that there were people dying, but if you were looking for an accurate rendition of the effect World War II had on British families, Hope and Glory was miles more nostalgic than anything else. It helps that the action is seen through the eyes of a child, and to him it's all tremendous fun.
Even when his house burns down two thirds of the way through, it opens up a summer of playing by the river and staying at the home of his loveably cantankerous grandfather (Ian Bannen, highly entertaining). Before that, there are frequent scenes with the Rowan family hurrying out into the street to see the latest spectacle to befall the much-abused capital, whether they be the bombed houses during an air raid or a barrage ballon that has broken free of its moorings and is gaily swooping around the sky, knocking off roofing tiles in the process.
As you can see, there's not much of a story to the film, it's more a series of connected events which very much lean towards the anecdotal. Imagine an elderly relative rambling at a get-together about their childhood and you have some idea of what the film resembles. There are some very funny moments, such as the friend of Bill's dad (David Hayman) getting his hand caught in the car door as it drives off, with Bill's dad thinking he is fooling, or the gang of kids who infest the bomb sites initiating Bill into their number by making him swear, only to be shocked when he reveals the only expletive he knows is "Fuck".
Boorman was questioned in some quarters about the accuracy of the memories he translated to the screen, but some are so vividly portrayed that you can believe they must have really happened, so unexpected are they. A lot is recognisable from other dramas from the Home Front, such as the experiences of Bill's highly strung older sister Dawn (Sammi Davis) who falls in love with a Canadian soldier, or his mother (Sarah Miles, very sympathetic) who regrets not marrying the love of her life and settling for Bill's goodnatured but ineffectual dad instead, emotions brough out by the stress of the war situation. It's the other details that make Hope and Glory ring true, and these plotlines less like cliché; Boorman charms through not revelling in the darker aspects of the era that must have been ever-present, but in the novelty of it all. Music by Peter Martin.
British director whose work can be insufferably pretentious or completely inspired, sometimes in the space of a single film. He began his career with the BBC, before directing Dave Clark Five vehicle Catch Us If You Can. Hollywood beckoned and his Lee Marvin movies Point Blank and Hell in the Pacific won him admirers.