Old School War Time Drama
Whilst many British war movies made in the early 40s were propaganda movies some were just about life during the war. "Waterloo Road" is one of those slice of life movies which focus on how hard it was for young couples to deal with being apart, marriage, living with relatives and also starting families. And with it being directed by Sidney Gilliat "Waterloo Road" has this wonderful old fashioned mix of drama and wit with some enjoyable performances from John Mills, Stewart Granger, Joy Shelton and Alastair Sim.
When Jim Colter (John Mills - This Happy Breed) was last home on leave he left following an argument as his wife Tillie (Joy Shelton - Millions Like Us) had had enough of having to live with his mum and sister Ruby (Alison Leggatt) plus also waiting to start a family. So when Jim receives a letter from Ruby suggesting that Tillie has been getting friendly with local spiv Ted Purvis (Stewart Granger - Secret Mission), Jim is forced to go AWOL to try and find his wife and find out what is going on.
On face value "Waterloo Road" can be just a witty war time drama which sees Jim trying to track down his wife and Ted whilst giving the military police the slip. We get a variety of scenes where he outsmarts those looking for him and we also get a variety of scenes where he arrives at a location to have just missed Ted and Tillie. And on that simple level it is entertaining with a witty performance from Alastair Sim as the knowing local doctor and some other fun scenes. Although at the same time it is expectedly dated with what for me is one of the fakest looking fight scenes I have seen.
But that is "Waterloo Road" on the surface and in fact dig just beneath that surface and you have a drama about war time relationships. We get to understand from both sides of Jim and Tillie's relationship how hard it is with Tillie feeling that the war is robbing her of her marriage and starting a family whilst Jim feels guilty for not being able to be the husband he had promised on their wedding day. It is not just about Jim and Tillie because there is Ruby and Fred who because of the war have to try and carry on a relationship working different shifts, barely seeing each other. None of which is hugely deep or complex but clever enough to let you see another side of what life was like during the war.
Performance wise well it has to be said that Stewart Granger as a spiv is entertaining if not entirely believable but then his character is part of the movies fun factor. So is Alastair Sim as Dr. Montgomery who's knowing looks and little words of advice simply make you smile. And then both John Mills and Joy Shelton are likeable as Jim and Tillie which is all they needed to be allowing the actual story to work rather than their performances distracting from it.
What this all boils down to is that "Waterloo Road" is an entertaining war time slice of life drama which shows another side to how things were during WWII. It isn't by any means a great movie but one which makes you think whilst also still entertaining with some fun performances.