Film Reviews, Short Review

How Green Was My Valley (1941)

3/4

Normally, John Ford films that aren’t Westerns are a terribly boring travesty, but How Green Was My Valley is an exception. Sure, huge chunks of the film are unintentionally funny – it has an especially quaint Americanised view of Welsh mining communities and it features a multitude of American actors screwing up the accents and ending up with quasi-Indian ones instead. It is also hopelessly sentimental throughout, and its ‘slice-of-life’ structure doesn’t sit too easily alongside the Hollywood system’s conventional desire for narrative drive, which means plenty of empty melodrama is crowbarred into the film to little purpose or effect. Yet, there’s a sincerity and love for the material that shines through here. I found myself genuinely caring for these characters by the end of the film, thanks in no small part to John Ford’s brilliance at understanding his material, not to mention that the film’s look – simplistic and stripped-down though it is – is absolutely gorgeous too.

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