If I were to make a list of the most pretentious movie titles I could think of, How Green Was My Valley would be at or near the top of the list. Directed by the consummate John Ford, this tale of a humble family living in a Welsh mining town evidently had a lot going for it, what with the slew of awards it won, including Best Picture. Indeed, the film has a lot going for it, but whether it really needs to have it all is a question up for debate.
Funny, having seen this so soon after The English Patient, as I would consider this a premier example of classical Oscar bait, as opposed to more modern fare. The story is sweeping and grand in scale, encompassing a family living through the ages in a community that endures through time; typically epic in grandeur as well as in the production value. Aside from the heavy stigma of Oscar bait, this is a very well done film; the acting is excellent throughout, the script is rather tight but solid, even if it is heavy on setting and keeping the pervasive mood. Still, even with the high quality of the film, like The English Patient there is a feeling of self-serving to it, like the film is just putting on such airs to ensure it wins accolades; it may not be at the forefront of the mind of the film, but it’s there somewhere in the background, ever lurking just enough to push the film that much forward.
There’s the requisite love story, the young ingénue (in the form of little Huw) who loses his innocence along the journey, the stern father, caring and strong mother, a focus on music (with the villagers singing rather than a swooning score, though the score is still there), and all the rest of the stock elements of the ultimate Academy film. I don’t mean to downplay or denigrate the film because of all this; I merely mean to let you know what to expect of this film beforehand based on what I got from it, and what I got was that while the film is good and certainly watchable, it was visibly trying to be a prime cut of cinema, so to speak, and I could see it all over this one. Hopefully, you’ll like this enough to be able to look past this, but for me, it was like driving with the sun in your eyes the whole time.
Arbitrary Rating: 7/10