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1941: How Green Was My Valley

[] [IMDB] [Wikipedia]

Unfortunately, it's been a couple weeks since I've watched this, so I've begun to forget the details. This film, also based on a book, chronicles the life of a Welsh coalmining family, as their way of life begins to fall apart through unionization, strikes, and their culture declining, around the turn of the 20th century.

The story is told through the eyes of the youngest son, Huw, and is about him and his family who all live in a small village in a valley in Wales, whose primary economy is based on the nearby coalmine. His older brothers and his father all work in the coalmine, but tensions begin to build as their wages are cut and thoughts of unionization begin to take hold, dividing the family. Eventually the workers strike, which begins the slow downturn of the village.

However, the movie isn't really about the labour issues, it is more about the family and their personal trials and tribulations, and the emotions and intensity with which they face them. Starting with the sons and the father first disagreeing about the unionization, then with the sons, one by one, getting laid off and moving away, his sister abandoning her forbidden romance with the town's priest and marrying into the coal-mine's owner family, and Huw attending school1, the first in his family to do so.

The movie is emotionally poignant, and you really do feel for this family. The characters are quite believable, with a particularly enjoyable performance in the mother, a strong matronly figure with a sharp wit, and the town feels believable2.

Pretty good movie, but certainly not the best of the bunch.

1: Some particularly amusing moments occur during his school preparation where he and the priest are doing some basic math, asking about how long it would take to fill a tub with a certain amount of water entering, and with a hole which a certain amount of water leaves. His mother, being ever practical, is in complete disbelief about the utility of a tub with a hole in it and considers the question preposterous.

2: Which is quite amazing, since it was filmed in California, due to the sudden unavailability of Wales (due to the war).
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October 2011

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