The effects of World War II on Britain are recalled with bittersweet nostalgia in this beguiling, richly textured film produced, written, and directed by John Boorman (Deliverance). Barely nine years old when his family hears a broadcast announcing the commencement of hostilities, the Boorman character (played by the delightfully unassuming Sebastian Rice-Edwards) sees the conflict as a grand adventure. His working-class parents (Sarah Miles and David Hayman) display unexpected courage and fortitude, and in the midst of the war the family manages to spend a fairly idyllic summer at the home of grandparents Ian Bannen and Annie Leon. Boorman's evocative film is loosely plotted but lovingly detailed; his re-creation of London during the Blitz is painstakingly accurate, not only in a physical sense but also emotionally and psychologically. High drama rears its portentous head on occasion, but much of Hope and Glory focuses on both the day-to-day banalities associated with wartime hardship and the occasional diversions that relieved family tensions and renewed the spirit. Considerably more sweet and funny than its backdrop might suggest, Hope and Glory is also a moving, memorable tribute to the indomitable will of the British people.
A superlative memoir of life in London during World War II from the unique perspective of a child, this ravishing drama from writer/director John Boorman is his thinly veiled autobiography and an essential work from his canon, arguably his single most important film. Much has been made of the film's fine performances, and they are indeed unforgettable, with young Sebastian Rice-Edwards suitably wide-eyed and vigorous as the hero, and Sammi Davis and Ian Bannen turning in career-high work as the main character's trampy sister and eccentric grandfather, respectively. What makes Hope and Glory (1987) a truly remarkable picture, however, is Boorman's keenly remembered, written, and re-created sense of a child's perception and how the mechanics of the adult world intrude upon it. Shifts in tone and mood occur rapid-fire at times, moving from such extremes as horror to humor to wonder in the same scene, as the filmmaker recalls the instant fluctuations of temperament and feeling that wash through a boy, particularly one subjected to the sensory overload of the London Blitz. When the film moves in its third act to a genteel country home where safety is found with a protective overseer, the change is jarring, but intentionally so. Presenting war as a joy and a thrill is an audacious act of artistic honesty and sets Hope and Glory (1987) in the same category as the same year's similarly underrated, under-seen Empire of the Sun (1987).