1 Year, 100 Movies: #37 The Best Years of our Lives (1946)

best-years-of-our-lives-posterFor 1 Year, 100 Movies, I will watch all of AFI’s 100 Years, 100 Movies list (compiled in 2007) in one year- and will complete a goal on my 2013 Manifesto. Come along on the ride with me- oh, and please pass the popcorn!

The Best Years of Our Lives‘ was a drama directed by William Wyler. The producer, Samuel Goldwyn was inspired to make a movie about veterans at home post war after he read an article about the subject in a 1944 edition of TIME magazine. The film is about three US servicemen, a young Army Captain, Fred (Dana Andrews), the middle-aged Sergeant, Al (Fredrich March) and Homer (Harold Russell), the wounded double amputee with hooks now instead of hands, returning home after war, and how they (and their loved ones) adjust to their return.

Homer, the amputee, is perhaps the most complex character in in film. He struggles with the way others stare or overtly look away, and at the same time there are certain obvious limitations that come with the loss of his hands. Throughout the film he must learn to accept others and himself. Since his physical loss is an external representation of the psychological injury they all share, he is forced to confront it in a way that Al and Fred are not. The actor that plays Homer, Harold Russell, lost his hands while in the military. Wyler saw an Army training film that Russell starred in, and cast him in the part of Homer. For a largely untrained actor, Russell is compelling, and the sincerity that comes through his performance makes the character of Homer more endearing and real.

The Best Years of Our Lives” tells a poignant tale of the struggles that face those returning from war. It is hopeful, but honest. It does not allow us to forget the sacrifices that were made, but it also points to a future that holds opportunity for recovery and love. It is a film that will remain topical and fresh as long as there are soldiers returning home from war.

In my humble, non-professional, average movie-goer opinion this movie earns:

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