Review: How Green Was My Valley (1941)

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This isn’t your typical review, never mind, scratch that idea before it even begins, trust me, whatever was going through my head would have been painful for you to read!

Screenplay By: Philip Dunne
Directed By: John Ford

This isn’t a town full of people ready for the coming change. The townsfolk in How Green Was My Valley are used to a certain way of life, a way of living that is hard but tried and true. One of the reasons life is so scary is its inability to allow things to remain the same. I’m not arguing that change is bad or anything like that, but sometimes things are good the way they are, change isn’t necessary or welcome. But, that doesn’t matter to whatever orchestrates the great chaos that we live in, the change will come and it will greatly affect your way of life. The people we see in How Green Was My Valley struggle with these changes, trying to meld the old with the new and realizing at the end the one undeniable truth behind existence, life goes on with or without you.

I know that I sound pretty darn harsh or downtrodden above and that probably gives the wrong idea about the tone of How Green Was My Valley. This movie is just like the folks it portrays and that may be why it is such an excellently crafted film. There are moments of profound sadness, death and complete devastation. At the same time How Green Was My Valley contains moments of laughter, joy and bombastic comedy. Real people experience a gamut of emotions, we aren’t just locked into one mode and How Green Was My Valley is willing to explore the totality of our happiness and sadness.

I often find myself with very little to say about John Ford’s skills as a director and How Green Was My Valley is no different. That speaks to Ford’s steadiness with the camera, the fact that he knows how he wants his scenes to look and almost always aces that look. Ford isn’t about flashy flourishes or nifty tricks with the camera, he is all about setting up his cameras to get the most possible depth out of every moment. I love divergent directorial styles as much as the next guy, but sometimes all I want is a steady hand behind the wheel gently guiding me through a fantastic story and I can always count on that from Ford. The amazing thing about Ford is that even while doing this he still impresses visually, maybe there’s a reason why he’s viewed as such a great director? Yeah, I should look into that!

I’m a guy who has a thing for Maureen O’Hara and for great storytelling. I’m a guy who loved the stories my Grandpa used to tell me about his Ireland, and that’s close enough to Wales for me. I’m a guy who digs stories that slowly unfold like a ticking clock counting down the change in the air with each passing second. I’m a guy who loves John Ford as a director. I’m a guy who loved How Green Was My Valley, but that should be obvious.

Rating:

****

Cheers,
Bill

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4 responses to “Review: How Green Was My Valley (1941)

  1. James Blake Ewing

    Glad you loved it. It really is a film that runs through the entire gambit of human emotions. Definitely one to revisit.

  2. Loved the non review. So many people don’t appreciate this film because of whom it beat at the Oscars. But I think it’s a very good film.

  3. You know, I completely agree. It’s a marvelous movie. Very touching. I guess I should plug my own review now. That’s what this whole blogging thing is about, right? http://www.thereelists.com/main/2009/9/16/how-green-was-my-valley-john-ford-1941.html

    Read the glory.

  4. James – It’s worth revisiting over and over again.

    Encore – The Oscar stigma will probably never leave this one, sadly enough.

    Alex – Yeah, that’s how this thing works I think. 🙂

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