The Best Years Of Our Lives Film Review
Note: I wrote this review back in college when I was an undergraduate.
The theme of this film is dealing with change, whether it is the change Homer faces with how people look at him and how he sees himself, or Fred and his changing jobs and how they affect his love-life. Fred has to change from a person who has a strong and well-respected identity of “the soldier” to someone who has no identity and doesn’t want to return to the old one he had before the war. The theme of change is also seen in Al’s story. He has returned a changed man and is not the same guy with the big bank job who went along with everything the bank wanted. He has to adjust to being with his family again.
The characters are constantly on the move and this is a tell-tale sign of William Wyler’s directing style. Much like the characters in Roman Holiday, the characters The Best Years of Our Lives are constantly moving. At the start of the film, movement is from planes to automobiles to just people walking around. The only time a character seems to stand still is when the character Fred is inside the cockpit of the decommissioned plane. The scene with the decommissioned plane is shot in such a way that Wyler does not have Fred move, but has the camera move for him. Another obvious aspect of Wyler is his use of the camera to focus on people’s emotions. Wyler uses close-ups effectively to focus on the body language and expressions of the character’s face.
The film is essential because it deals with soldiers coming back from war and the changes they have to deal with. It also shows the differing opinions of Americans after World War II. The scene at the soda fountain shows a lack of people learning from war and the futility of peace. The man at the counter is telling Homer and Fred that their service was for nothing and their buddies died in vain because the government pushed the country into war. Homer and Fred obviously take offense at this.
A scene that stood out to me the most of any scene is the one where Homer shows his fiancée his body without the hooks. This scene was powerful in its tenderness, and the display of love between Homer and his fiancée. Without this scene, Homer’s story would lack a depth that only this scene brings to the film.
This film is in my opinion a truly timeless classic.