Frank Gibbons, just demobbed after WWI, moves into a new home in Clapham with his wife Ethel, their three children – Reg, Vi and Queenie – his widowed sister Sylvia, and Ethel’s mother. Frank discovers that his next-door neighbour is Bob, who served with him in the Army. Frank gets a job in a travel agency. As the children grow up and Britain adapts to peacetime, the family attend a number of events such as the British Empire Exhibition at Wembley in 1924.
Reg makes friends with Sam, a staunch Socialist. Bob’s sailor son, Billy, falls in love with Queenie and wants to marry her, but she hates suburbia and dreams of a more exciting life elsewhere. During the General Strike of 1926, Sam signs up to drive a bus. While out with Sam, Reg is injured in a fight in the Whitechapel Road, which angers Vi. Later, however, she relents towards Sam, enough to agree to marry him, and he drops his socialist principles.
By 1928, the Charleston dance craze has arrived and Queenie is in her element, dancing it in front of everyone at the local dance hall. As London enjoys the Jazz Age, pictures of the new German chancellor, Adolf Hitler, begin to appear in the newspapers. Reg marries Phyllis. Billy proposes to Queenie but is again rebuffed, when she tells him she is in love with a married man. She doesn’t want to spend her life cooking and cleaning, like her mother.
Vi becomes pregnant. After a row at Reg’s wedding, Queenie leaves home on the night Frank and Bob return from a regimental dinner, rather the worse for wear. They talk about the possibility of another war. Ethel is woken up by their noise. She finds a letter from Queenie, explaining that she has gone off with her married man. Ethel cannot forgive her and never wants to see her again.
Aunt Sylvia discovers spiritualism and starts to enjoy life again. Reg and Phyllis are killed in a car accident. Oswald Mosley’s followers, the ‘black shirts’, try to whip up anti-semitic feeling in London. 1935 – Baldwin becomes Prime Minister. King George V dies. Ethel takes down the calendar for 1936 – it has a picture of Edward VIII. Her mother dies.
Billy comes home on leave, with news of Queenie, whom he has seen in France. She now regrets leaving home. She was abandoned by her lover, became ill, and then tried to make a living by opening a tearoom. He reveals that they are married, and that he has brought her home. Ethel forgives her and they are reunited.
War looms. Queenie has a baby. Bob decides to leave London and move to the country. Queenie joins Billy in Singapore, leaving the new baby with Frank and Ethel. They too leave the house, to move to a smaller flat, now that their family has grown up. –BFI
Director, writer, and producer David Lean, grew up in a strict religious background in which movies were forbidden, to become one of the world’s most celebrated filmmakers. Beginning as a tea boy in the mid-‘20s, he was lucky enough to move into editing just as sound films were coming on the scene. By the mid-’30s, he was regarded as one of the top in his field. Lean turned down several chances to make low-budget films, and got his first directing opportunity (unofficially) on Major Barbara (1941), one of the most celebrated movies of the early ‘40s. Noel Coward hired Lean as his directorial collaborator on his war classic In Which We Serve (1943), and, after that, Lean’s career was made. For the next 15 years, he became known throughout the world for his close, intimate, serious film dramas. Some (This Happy Breed 1944, Blithe Spirit 1945, and Brief Encounter 1945) were based upon Coward’s… read more
David Lean directed this domestic drama near the end of WWII, which follows the life of a family from the end of WWI to the brink of the second World War. A quintessentially British examination of society during a very specific time, the film is a beautifully photographed tribute to the British people made at the very end of perhaps their darkest period. Moving and powerfully rendered.