Such a frustrating disappointment
It’s not bad or unwatchable but despite the amplitude of the spectacle, the end result is underwhelming.
It's a good bad... and worth a popcorn matinée. While it's easy to lament what could have been...
Mathilde the Guild
Although I seem to have had higher expectations than I thought, the movie is super entertaining.
Very few scenes were ones reported in the diary but Wood's film conveyed its substance very well indeed. Beautifully handled, for example, was Nella's naive inability to recognise Cliff's homosexuality. But I thought her 'Nella' was too passive. You can see the film's nervy, pensive introvert in her intimate writing but her diaries also make it clear that she could be feisty and would have come across to others as able and assured. Nella herself contrasts 'the quiet, brooding woman who, when alone, draws the quiet around her like a healing cloak and the gay lively woman who 'keeps all going'''.
Victoria Wood (who we miss terribly) was best known for being a stand-up performer, but it's important to remember that she was also a very good writer, penning the brilliant 'Eric and Ernie' and this one off 'Housewife, 49'.It combines all the warmth and humour we came to expect from Wood, with also a good sense of historical accuracy and a list of well known actors in support for Wood, who takes the lead.I couldn't say that it was my favourite of the TV drama's she wrote, but Wood was certainly deserving of the acclaim that she earnt for this well written TV drama.
I returned to this after the recent death of Victoria Wood because I remembered seeing it a few years ago and being hugely impressed.I wasn't wrong. This lovely film is four things: It's a lovely piece of writing, the sign of a true talent who could be hilarious, but also always understood humanity in all it's forms.It's a performance from VW which shows that she was a great 'serious' actress. She lives this character, and you don't doubt from the start to the end that she is Nella Last, even though her face is so familiar. I just wish she'd had time to do more serious acting.It's a hugely impressive period drama. The settings and dressings and street scenes are perfect, and as good a film about WW2 as I've seen, even though you don't see a single gun or bullet fired. In fact, I don't remember many films told from the home front anyway, and this has to be one of the best.And finally, it's an amazing performance from David Threlfall. I don't think I've seen a study in repression this perfect (and perfectly awful) since Anthony Hopkins in the Remains of the Day - and that's high praise... It's impossible to place him as the same man from Shameless.I had a lump in my throat from the 5 minutes in, and it didn't go away until the end. Tragic, but in a beautiful way. You get a very real sense of what it was like for the people left behind in the war, with bombs dropping on the streets around you, and telegrams full of the worst possible news about loved ones only a door knock away.The human drama was also amazing. 2 high points: The scene where her husband asks for a dance was such a paradox, it's amazing that he's trying for her, but clear that he's a million miles away from being Mr Right for the newly empowered Nella. And 5 minutes later he's burning her beloved chicken coop as another 'frivolity'.The scene where her son struggles to explain why he's been so distant and angry, and she just cannot grasp it - the idea of him being gay just doesn't enter her head, even though the viewer cannot be in any doubt. It's easy to get frustrated with her inability to see what's in front of her, or to break away from her oppressive relationship - but that's just what people were like then....Finally, the ending. Having grown over 90 minutes to care for the character and her difficult life in a way it'd be great to see her striking out and becoming independent. But that would be unrealistic (and not true), so it's perfect (and the saddest thing of all) that even after her 'awakening', she stays at home and lives out the rest of her days, watching the fireworks through a window while other people have a real life outside. Amazing. What a talent VW was. What a loss.
Now I am not one to go overboard when reviewing anything but this you have to see. In an interview earlier this year Victoria Wood said she has a few things "in the fire" but she wouldn't elaborate. Comedienne, comedy actress & writer, singer of comedy songs she again writes herself, but this is something special. I have seen her act in non comedy roles before but this has such a range with her initially frightened of the world outside her home,naive, not daring to contradict her husband over anything to later taking charge in all aspects of her life and improving the lives of those around her. Set in the 2nd World War it is not a "feel good" drama and I was close to tears more than once. But you go through the journey she does and you come out the other side uplifted. Well I did, maybe you will too.