The first half is exceptional: Wyler captures beautifully the sense of otherness and alienation for both the returning veterans and those who stayed behind, and he does this both through careful direction of the actors and disquieting visual cues. Even in the much weaker second half, there are moments of tremendous power (Derry traumatised inside the amputated body of the B17, mirroring Homer's plight - brilliant).
A broad range of subjects are tackled here, and with no little compassion: Post-traumatic Stress Disorder, the need for decompression after a boys-own adventure, the attitude of post-war america, and most importantly the hidden effects of war, revealing the fact that there are never, ever any winners.
The depth of the storyline and the characters is a rarity for 1940s Hollywood, helping to make this film utterly watchable and compelling. Some of the scenes with Harold Russell are heart-wrenching and beautifully scripted. Others are a little melodramatic. And Fredric March is effortlessly brilliant, fully deserving his Best Actor Oscar. This has to be one of the best films of its era.
One of the greatest, most moving evocations of damaged people returning to homes they no longer recognize - all the more moving because this was a 1946 mainstream release with an audience made up of families who understood only too well what the film was about. Human, painful, and poignant.
Starts out seeming like a look at the abandonment of service people by their country once the war's over, but quickly jerks into sickly sweet and thoroughly meaningless sop. Some gorgeous images, some smart dialogue, and a story with all its interesting edges polished to nothing.
An ensemble piece of interconnected narratives looking at the many underdiscussed issues of the post-war day - PTSD, disability, divorce, familial dischord, depression - it's almost succeeds as an exercise in social realism, were it not so reactionary. The script is remarkable, though it ultimately succumbs to melodrama and moralism. (4.5)
4.5. I've been let down by Wyler far too many times to get excited about this (Dodsworth was boring as shit). To my surprise, I found a Hollywood production that manages to fit within the system's tradition while also being unlike anything to come out of there. It's a wonderful study of three characters of different age and social status who come to struggle with their haunting past and a world no longer for them.
Gucky and very conservative Hollywood story of WWII veterans returning to middle American lives. The story is predictable and flat in the worst Hollywood fashion hiding any real social or societal problems with a rosy ending. The problems or traumas the characters feel is deeply uninteresting especially relative to how the great European directors reflected on the lasting traumas of the war.