01 April 2010

Make Way for Tomorrow (Leo McCarey, 1937)

Leo McCarey's film stars Beulah Bondi and Victor Moore as couple who have been married for fifty years and have lost their home to foreclosure. Their ungrateful children can't afford to take them on, it seems, and the two parents are split up, the wife staying with their son and his family in New York City, and the father staying with their horrible daughter and her husband three hundred miles away. It's a gorgeous film in some respects. There's something that reminded me of Frank Capra's 1930's films or even of John Ford's Grapes of Wrath. Those "regular people" movies from the time are so fascinating to me because they seem a little patronizing but simultaneously heartfelt. They're sentimental and hokey but manage to be profoundly affecting. Their notions of decency can range from seeming quaint to seeming almost revolutionary today. It was sort of disorienting though because you have this film that sort of feels like a Yasujiro Ozu movie tucked inside one of those '30s melodramas that almost seem to function like therapy for Americans who were exhausted from the preceding twenty-five years. I kept feeling this disconnect like my brain kept wanting to convert it to an Ozu film or even Koreeda. At the end there's this great sequence in the railway station that has called to my mind the grace and the emotional quality of moments in David Lean's Brief Encounter. I thought about rating this film with a lower score because of some of the hokiness but it had been a while since a movie made me cry and there's something timeless about the story and ache-inducingly beautiful about the trajectory. A

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