The movie seethes with conflict and bad blood – often unspoken. The conflicts arise over deeply felt divisions in social class, in gender and in generation, and result in unspoken accusations of callousness and cowardice, vanity and selfishness.
In many respects this is a movie of another time – these days, unless a family has a strong military tradition, I can imagine few families now enraged by a son’s expressed wish that a war could be won without his involvement, few families in which an employer would not draft a letter for his decades-long employee’s only child to keep him out of war – and even refuse to write a letter (for which his mother pleads) for his own beloved brother’s draft deferment.
One sees many views of war and patriotic obligation in this movie: views that deeply clash with one another, views that are expressed with strong emotion and that upset others.
The only comparable scene in Best Years of Our Lives is the darkest – the scene with Dana Andrews and the cynical customer at the soda fountain. Best Years is a far warmer and more optimistic movie (despite the predicament of the protagonists). In Best Years, one always senses that one day, there will be a workable re-adjustment.
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