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This Happy Breed

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NR
1944

This Happy Breed, directed by David Lean in 1944, stars Robert Newton, Celia Johnson, and John Mills. This film is a well-crafted drama that provides a richly detailed picture of British family life in the interwar years.

The story centres around the working-class Gibbons family living in Clapham, a district of South London. Initially set in 1919, at the close of WWI, the narrative traces the historical progression, spanning 20 years till the advent of WWII, capturing the experience of ordinary citizens during this tumultuous time.

The family patriarch, Frank Gibbons, portrayed ardently by Robert Newton, is a solid, salt-of-the-earth type, a dedicated husband and a father who has just returned home from the war. Frank brings with him the aspirations of a stable and tranquil life and carries the sanity and perspective of the common man. He’s accompanied by his dutiful wife Ethel, played with rare sensitivity by Celia Johnson, who holds the family together with her resilience and warmth. Together, they have three children, each having unique personalities, representative of the diverse younger generation of the period.

The oldest son, Reg, is played by John Mills, who reflects the rebellious spirit of the era with his somewhat radical leanings. Their daughter Vi and younger son Billy, each add their own colourful touch, creating a vivid portrayal of British lower-middle-class life.

Highlighting the family's hopes, aspirations, and struggles, whilst painting a backdrop of significant events occurring at that time such as the General Strike of 1926 and the coronation of King George VI, the film depicts how a typical family grappled with the fast-paced social and political changes. It captures not only the family's everyday life but also the spirit of the nation through an engaging blend of drama and heartfelt sentiment.

One of the key strengths of This Happy Breed lies in the effective and immersive portrayal of its characters - they are achingly human and easy to connect with. Even the supporting characters that drift in and out of the narrative have been created with depth, adding to the richness of the story.

Lean's directing is masterful throughout. His craftsmanlike approach offers an exploration into social realism with a nuanced aesthetic appeal, creating a sense of familiarity and ease. The film subtly swings between active sequences of historical importance and passive scenes of familial bonding - revealing universal narratives nestled within domestic monotony.

In the context of cinematography, it steers clear of grandeur, presenting an unfussy representation of the British lower-middle-class home and life. The interiors are shot with an honest, detail-oriented gaze that immerses the viewer in the daily life and routine of a workaday family for two decades.

London is depicted in a manner that highlights its vibrant spirit, accentuating the city's resilience against all adversities. The city's portrayal resonates with the Gibbons family's enduring spirit, hinting at a metaphorical resemblance between the two.

The film capitalizes on the fact that in a screen story where epic events form a backdrop, the mundane domestic scenes acquire a certain poignancy. Above all, This Happy Breed is a story about ordinary people, told in a simple and unaffected way.

In conclusion, This Happy Breed is a testimony to post-war British filmmaking, underpinning how effective cinema can be when dealing with a slice of life narration. With an ensemble cast each delivering stellar performances and a skillfully-constructed screenplay penned by Noël Coward, the movie remains a celebrated work in the larger filmography of David Lean. The film touches upon universal themes, thereby having its relevance etched in time, making it a worthwhile watch for individuals interested in humanistic narratives and the socio-cultural backdrop of Britain in the interwar period.

This Happy Breed is a Drama movie released in 1944. It has a runtime of 115 min.. Critics and viewers have rated it moderate reviews, with an IMDb score of 7.3..

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7.3/10
Director
David Lean
Stars
Robert Newton, Celia Johnson, Stanley Holloway
Genres
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