Three veterans return home from World War II forever changed,
and must figure out how to adapt without losing themselves.
The Best Years of Our Lives (1946)
Directed by William Wyler
Written by Robert E. Sherwood
Starring Fredric March, Dana Andrews, Harold Russell, Myrna Loy, Teresa Wright, Virginia Mayo, Cathy O'Donnell, Hoagy Carmichael
Based on the novel Glory for Me by MacKinlay Kator
Oscar Wins - Best Picture, Best Actor (Fredric March),
Best Supporting Actor (Harold Russell), Best Director,
Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Film Editing, Best Original Score (Hugo Freidhofer), Honorary Award (Harold Russell)
Oscar Nominations - Best Sound Recording
World War II, like every conflict that left thousands of dead Americans in its wake, changed this country forever. It left an entire generation afflicted with PTSD and debilitating injuries, but more so, they returned to a home that no longer recognized them. The Best Years of Our Lives tells the story of three veterans who dealt with this unfortunate revelation, showing us the struggles they faced while trying to adapt to their new lives. I just wish it wasn't ten minutes short of three hours, because that really is the only thing holding this film back from being as flawless as critics have claimed for the past 75 years.
Al Stephenson (March), Homer Parrish (Russell), and Fred Derry (Andrews) have just returned home after meeting each other on the plane ride back. Al has a problem with alcohol, Homer lost both his hands, and Fred is trapped in a loveless marriage. The majority of the film is watching these three men meander through what little semblance of lives they have left. Harold Russell actually was a WWII veteran who had lost his hands, and his performance was frighteningly genuine. I felt the standout was Fredric March, though, considering his chameleonic talents of transforming into characters. I've seen several films of his now and he never even looks like the same man, let alone feels like it.
I really wanted to feel attached to The Best Years of Our Lives, but that runtime is intimidating and unnecessary. So much of this thing could've been trimmed down, and I think the film would've benefited from it. But who am I? This film has lasted for 75 years without my two cents. I acknowledge that. At the end of the day, all this is is one opinion.