A Rose in England
Things are going well in the Miniver household; Kay Miniver (Greer Garson) has been a little bit naughty and brought herself a fancy hat whilst her husband Clem (Walter Pidgeon) has been very naughty and brought himself a new car although they can afford it. Plus their son Vin (Richard Ney) is home from University and whilst he has become a little too opinionated he finds himself falling for Carol Beldon (Teresa Wright), the granddaughter of Lady Beldon (Dame May Whitty). But then the announcement comes that England is at war and things change in the Miniver household as Vin joins the RAF whilst Clem is a reservist and ends up part of the flotilla who take their boats to Dunkirk.
As with anything in life when you do something often you can become jaded, it is what happens when you watch a lot of movies which are only average at best. But in a way you need to watch those average ones to appreciate something which is more than average and that is what "Mrs. Miniver" is, a war movie from 1942 which is not only superior to many of the war movies made whilst the war was still going on but superior to many movies which are made now.
The reason why I say that is realism but not in the sense that "Mrs. Miniver" is a gritty war movie drenched in stark realism as it certainly has more than air of entertainment about it but it has moments and it is those moments which make it impressive even now. Take an early scene where the news arrives during the church service that England was now at war, a moving scene but one which is made real by the enquiry of young Toby Miniver, just a small child, who asks out loud if that means the bombing will start, unaware of the sombre mood of others. That comment and how he flicks the heavy handle of the church's door on the way out allows you to relate to the scene, the seriousness of it broken by the innocence of youth.
These little moments crop up through out the movie so that we get scenes such as Mrs. Miniver's encounter with a German pilot who crashed down and went into hiding. It is a scene designed to entertain with the German with the gun forcing Kay to help him but the way the soldier is visibly fearful, knowing he stands little chance of escaping makes it tangible even now.
What that means is that "Mrs. Miniver" ends up this entertaining look at life for those in England during the war which has some enjoyable drama but powerful moments which gets your gripped. I could go on with simple but amazing scenes such as Kay Miniver listening as the planes come back from their bombing raid, the tension etched across her face as she waits to hear the signal which Vin gives on his return.
Much of why "Mrs. Miniver" works is because of the fantastic chemistry between Greer Garson and Walter Pidgeon; they went on to make 8 movies together. There is a real naturalness to the way they interact and it makes all their scenes together enjoyable with a real playfulness to them but also moving such as one where they are in their raid shelter which is being rocked by the dropping bombs. Just as enjoyable is Teresa Wright as Carol, sweet but a strong woman who is a match for Vin played by Richard Ney. Rather amusingly a short while after "Mrs. Miniver" was made Greer Garson and Richard Ney married.
What this all boils down to is that "Mrs. Miniver" is a wonderful piece of cinema from 1942 which manages to mix entertainment with war time drama and moments of realism which even now 70 years after its release is still effective.