2006 - United Kingdom - 95 minutes
Director - Gavin Millar
Writer - Victoria Wood from the diaries of Nella Last
My Rating - 4 of 5 Stars
Victoria Wood is a famous British comic actress who has surely shown that she also has a superior for drama - both writing and acting - in this excellent made for television film based upon a real person. During World War II in England, housewife, Nella Last's experiences were recorded by the Mass-Observation organization founded in 1937 to record the daily experiences of British citizens for social research.
The film starts with Nella as being almost complete frustrated with her role as housewife. She is a middle-aged woman who has devoted her entire self to the care of her husband and their two sons. The war has just started, and her sons are leaving to serve in duties other than combat.
Nella's only connection with anything creative is her younger son. He is the one who encourages his mother to go beyond the confines of the house in order to seek fulfillment. Nella begins to blossom when she volunteers for the Women's Voluntary Service and starts to submit her observances of daily occurrences to Mass-Observation.
Over the objections of her husband - a joiner - Nella volunteers for the WVS. There she must face the insults of the women in charge for she is merely the wife of a laborer whereas they are wives of members of higher classes. With spunk and wit, Nella forges ahead and becomes an invaluable member of the organization.
At home, Nella receives almost no support from her husband - a man not able to express emotion. Because of this weakness, he appears to be somewhat of a villain, but there are a few touching scenes in the screenplay where the viewer is able to see past his hard surface to a man who genuinely loves his wife.
Nella's son, Cliff, may be the most complex character in the film. Clifford Last who eventually entered battle was wounded and after the war, moved to Australia where he became a well-known sculptor.
This is a fine film that gives insight into the lives of women of Nella's generation and invites the viewer into an "everyday family" that is certainly far from that.
March 17, 2008