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Englishman Mr Howard is on a fishing holiday in eastern France when the Germans invade in 1940. Setting off to try and get back home he is persuaded to take along the two Cavanaugh children, and as his journey progresses his family keeps growing in size. Once in German-occupied northern France a new problem arises - the risk of being heard speaking English. Written by
Jeremy Perkins <email@example.com>
A World War II exodus story of an old man unwillingly collecting children on the way.
I read the novel twice many years ago and found it perhaps Nevil Shute's best story, and he wrote many, all outstanding. Still I am tempted to hint at the possibility that the film excels the book, much because of Monty Woolley's rendering of the grumpy old Englishman sick of everything who finds himself stranded in France by the war after Dunkirk and has to accept helping two children to England although he hates children. His long difficult odyssey through war-harried France to somehow reach England with constantly more orphaned children on his hands turns him into another and slightly different man, and the realism depicting this is what makes the film so impressing still today after 70 years for its more than just convincing character. It was made before any of the turning points of the war in 1942 after Pearl Harbour and the fall of Singapore while the Germans were still pounding Moscow and besieging Leningrad, in brief, when the war was at its grimmest. Nevil Shute's story is about humanity in the depth of the despair of this world crisis, which the film admirably conveys, underlining the realism. Monty Woolley, however, is finally matched by Otto Preminger as the German officer, who represents the final conversion to humanity and couldn't make it better as a perfectly brutal and revolting officer who finally has to fall to his own humanity. It's one of the greatest stories told from the second world war, and the film honours it. Strange though that this very important and wonderful film should be so hard to find on internet. A remake was made for TV in 1989 with Peter O'Toole which also pays credit to the story, such a story can only be told well, but that film can't be found at all.
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