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When Lily and best friend Sophie fall in love with two Canadian soldiers, they think their lives are made, particularly when they marry and are sent to Canada to start a new life while waiting for their men. Sophie has certainly fallen on her feet - her husband's family are rich and welcoming. Lily has similar expectations, particularly as husband Charlie painted such a beautiful picture of his home. Unfortunately, her dreams are soon dashed. Charlie's mother and sister live on a poor farm in the middle of nowhere and are unwelcoming to boot. However, Lily realises that she must make the best of things and soon her infectious spirit lifts those around her. But is it enough to persuade her to stay in Canada? And will Charlie ever come home?
This is not the first time I have seen Anna Friel in a war-time film - I saw and loved Land Girls a few years ago - and it has to be said that a forties hairstyle and fashion really suit her. She is excellent in the role of Lily. An orphan, she is used to hardship, and this comes shining through in everything she does - even when things seem as though they can't get any better, she has a survival instinct that keeps her going on doggedly. I was a bit taken aback by her Cockney accent at first - I'm not sure if it is because I'm used to her speaking with a Northern accent (or more recently, an American one), or whether it was a bit over-the-top - whatever, I soon grew accustomed to it and didn't notice it.
I love Brenda Fricker as an actress - I saw her most recently in My Left Foot, which was a truly outstanding performance. As Lily's mother-in-law, she is not quite so extraordinary, but more because the situation doesn't call for anything special than anything else. This is still a great performance though. I loved the sullenness when Lily first arrived, and then the slow coming to terms with her presence and grudging admiration for Lily's fortitude, before she finally gave in and showed she really cared for her.
Molly Parker gives a good performance as Sylvia, Lily's sister-in-law. She takes a lot longer to come round than her mother, simply because she is jealous of Lily - Lily has everything she wants - a husband, good looks, great clothes and an outgoing personality. Sylvia also has a disability - her leg is in braces and she struggles to move around fluidly. However, it is her own mindset that is her worst enemy; she hides behind her disability and uses it as an excuse to be miserable. Parker never lets this get too out of control though - she keeps the audience feeling enough sympathy with her so that they don't write her off. Watching her change from a dull and miserable girl into a real beauty is a joy.
Two other actors deserve a mention. Aden Young, a Canadian actor, is good as Charlie. Again, he runs a whole range of emotions. When we first seen him in the film, he is playful and full of life; later on, he becomes morose and distant - as presumably happens to so many men who have seen war. It isn't an outstanding performance, but definitely noteworthy. Then there is Julie Cox, who plays Sophie. Although she only has a small role in the film, she is extremely good at one point, when she breaks down in tears after a tragedy.
Although it has been done before, I always enjoy watching films about women in war-time. My gran has told me so many stories of living in London during the Blitz that I feel a personal affiliation with these women. This is a particularly good film because it shows that the war upset absolutely everyone's lives. It is also interesting to see that the lives of war brides were not always as exciting as they seemed - starting a new life in a new country back when there was little communication with other countries must have been truly frightening.
I really adored the attention to detail of the fashion, make-up, hair-styles and music. Obviously I can't comment on how precisely authentic it is, but it certainly looked and sounded the real deal to me, from the ridiculous red lipstick smeared all over the lips to the wonderful dance scenes while Lily is still in London.
The only criticism I have of the film is that some will find it a bit dull. There isn't much in the way of action, it is all about relationships and making the best of it. However, this is exactly what I liked about it, because it is believable. This is not a love story with a happy ending, although it isn't a devastating one either - it is just very grounded and convincing and I thought very refreshing. I certainly didn't find it boring.
This is perhaps not a film for the boys, unless they want an insight into the magical world of women. It probably isn't for younger girls either. But I think people of my age (thirties) or older will find it entrancing. I went into this film feeling sure that it wouldn't be my cup of tea, but I was soon proved wrong. Definitely recommended.
The DVD is available from play.com for £4.99.
Running time: 107 minutes