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Perfect Strangers
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Reviews & Ratings for
Vacation from Marriage More at IMDbPro »Perfect Strangers (original title)

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41 out of 43 people found the following review useful:

a quiet treasure--should be on anyone's list of romance films

Author: whitecargo from Philadelphia PA USA
15 October 2000

"Perfect Strangers" was made in war-scarred Britain in 1945 and it has that unmistakable flavour and appeal of the small, b&w 1940's English pictures of the time--trustworthy, tender without being sentimental, sweet, reticent, and positive. The epitome of the wartime film designed to boost people's morale.

Like many pre-50's films that catch my interest, it has the charming buoyancy of that other, (and now otherworldly) WWII era--before Twentieth Century attitudes had crystallized into their currently cold, disaffected, and jaundiced condition that forms our modern outlook. Films like "Perfect Strangers" (also known as "Vacation from Marriage") are the perfect antidote--tiny time capsules of hopefulness, naivete, and innocence that, certainly in the art of the cinema, can't be achieved anymore, no matter what the budget.

Robert Donat and Deborah Kerr are well cast and their performances seem effortlessly on-the-mark in this film. The two play a shy, humdrum, and rather ineffectual couple living in London during the Blitz. Kerr is a glum housewife to the staid, stodgy Donat, who works meekly in London as a bank teller.

Even though around them all is chaos in the city, they are frozen, as it were, in their daily routines: work, eat, sleep. These are two people to whom nothing much ever happens. Their marriage is in a rut but they dont know it. They are vaguely dissatisfied with themselves, but they dont know why. Each is right on the edge of being bored with the another. Certainly they are both bored with their lives.

(This is one of those couples of a type that one still encounters today--a pair of simple, unimaginative souls that, in the first flush of romance, dont envision needing anything more out of life than being married to each other).

But their dull routines are suddenly shaken up by wartime events--both are unexpectedly called to active service. This turn of events falls like a bolt of lightning on the couple. Donat reluctantly enters the Navy as an able seaman, and Kerr becomes a WREN. The story picks up pace from this point on. The two agree to keep in touch and meet whenever they are on leave.

However, both soon have their hands full trying to adjust to the rigors of service life: not just the hazards of wartime but more importantly, the trials of intense, abrupt socialization with their new comrades.

Each undergoes a separate transformation of character: they make friends, win esteem from their peers, prove themselves to be fit and able in all of their duties and even distinguish themselves in the war effort. In short, they thrive in their unexpected "vacation" and in the process, discover all sorts of things about themselves that they never would have guessed previously.

When it comes time for the couple to meet up again, each dreads having the old marriage relations reestablished. Each assumes the other has not changed or developed in any way. (Both Donat and Kerr are even getting tempting offers and romantic attentions from others at this point).

When they meet, in one of the sweetest moments in the film, they fail to even recognize each other. Its how the two get back together which comprises the rest of the storyline of the film.

Its a little treasure of a film: well-made, un-selfconscious, unassuming, and hits its mark perfectly. If you like a simple, honest story about people and people in love, give it a try.

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35 out of 38 people found the following review useful:

Great stories never die. Or do they?

Author: perrylyn-1 from United States
7 April 2005

There are certain stories that are so original and intrinsically entertaining that they get reinvented every 20 or 30 years. Case in point, "The shop around the corner", which became "In the good old summertime" and finally "You've got mail". That's the kind of originality that runs through this story. Premise: A young married couple about to be parted for 3 years, both to do duty in her Majesty's Royal Navy in WWII. He's timid and boring. She's mousy and sickly. He becomes bold and manly. She blossoms into an attractive and assertive woman. Both now dread having to meet each other again after several years separation, remembering only how each partner use to be like. What happens when they meet again is pure fun. Why are there no remakes of this terrific story? We've had plenty of new wars to use as a background. People still change, sometimes for the better, during long separations. I have a VHS copy of this story taped from TV years ago. I only wish they would sell this movie again, while we wait for the updated script someone should write.

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26 out of 27 people found the following review useful:

Lovely film

Author: Kitty-47
12 May 1999

This is an excellent movie about spouses rediscovering each other. Robert Donat and Deborah Kerr are perfect as a mousy and dull couple who are transformed by the challenges of war and a separation from each other. It's rare to find a movie that focuses on a married couple in this way. This is a film for romantics and, since I am one, I recommend it strongly.

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23 out of 24 people found the following review useful:

"You've frizzed your hair out like a blond gollywog!"

Author: Sarah ( from Wichita, KS
11 October 2001

What a screenplay this movie has! It's wonderful! It's a simple story but it's executed wonderfully! You truly feel for the main characters. Deborah Kerr has never been a favorite of mine but she is wonderful in this film. Robert Donat, as usual, is brilliant! I highly recommend this to fans of classic romances. It is sweet, humorous in parts, and REAL! I wish Donat had done more films when he was around, but I shouldn't complain. I'm just glad he was smart enough to always take good roles in quality films. Kerr and Donat sparkle in this and Glynis Johns is so perky! Like a little cheerleader! This is great fun! I'll stop rambling now, if this is ever shown on TCM, you must watch it!

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21 out of 22 people found the following review useful:

A nice "little" film about real characters and their growth as people

Author: Robert Reynolds ( from Tucson AZ
27 February 2001

This film isn't a classic movie for the ages. It's probably not gong to be considered in any discussions of the "best" of all time. What it is, is a nice, charming delightful film about two people who have their nice routine lives changed by a little event-WWII! Over time, they change, they grow as people often do. The main question is, will their marriage grow and change, or will it flop around and expire like a fish out of water. The fact is, you come to truly care about them over the course of the film, in no small part because Robert Donat and Deborah Kerr deliver good peformances in what is a character-driven film. Well worth watching.

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11 out of 11 people found the following review useful:

A husband and wife go in separate directions during WW II

Author: blanche-2 from United States
14 March 2009

Deborah Kerr and Robert Donat give wonderful performances in "Vacation from Marriage," a 1945 film directed by Alexander Korda. It's the story of a boring British couple - she's a mousy housewife prone to colds, and he's a mousy accountant who lives by a strict routine. When World War II hits, he joins the Navy and she joins the WRENS. He becomes very healthy, authoritative, and adventurous, and she becomes glamorous and independent. When faced with 10 days leave after nearly three years apart, neither one is looking forward to seeing the other again.

This very enjoyable film is heightened by the performances of the leads, both of whom ably demonstrate their change of personality and appearance after a few years of war. Glynis Johns is very good in a supporting role as well.

Highly recommended.

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12 out of 13 people found the following review useful:

Lovely hidden British treasure

Author: Jem Odewahn from Australia
19 June 2008

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

A lovely little film that no one seems to know about. I didn't either, and I'm a huge British classic film buff! Deborah Kerr and Robert Donat give thoughtful, engaging performances as the British couple who's marriage is going stale in a cramped London flat. Then Donat is called up to service and Kerr becomes a WREN in WW2, and the couple change their outlook on life enormously, and separately. They begin to question whether or not they want to be together, and feel like "perfect strangers" when they meet up on Donat's 10 day leave. An incredibly honest film about marriage and change, this features lovely work from the leads (I don't think Kerr and Donat have ever been so gorgeous as in their later scenes together), and great supporting work from the likes of an incredibly modern Glynis Johns and a beautiful Ann Todd. See it

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15 out of 21 people found the following review useful:

Almost Perfect

Author: legadillo from Austin TX
21 January 2005

The first two thirds of this movie are perfect! The remaking of Robert and Catherine is depicted in the subtle way I wanted it done. And the mirroring of their war experiences worked very well. At the same points in the movie they were made over, they were heroes, they were attracted to other people. It was utterly predictable, but surprise wasn't the point. The point was to tease out their reunion into a deliciously excruciating wait, and that worked. I was right there for it the whole time—and then they botched the ending. Instead of taking pains with the nuances of the couple's becoming interested in each other again—which could have been achingly romantic—we get a short cut: a dumb marital squabble that is out of character with their new war-forged maturity. Ah well. It was really close.

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7 out of 7 people found the following review useful:

Entertaining Comedy of Manners

Author: Robert J. Maxwell ( from Deming, New Mexico, USA
12 March 2009

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

The English title, "Perfect Strangers," was changed to "Vacation From Marriage" for its USA distribution. It's amazing that it ever was finished. Aside from a good deal of trouble concerning the script, it was filmed in 1944 when there was a shortage of sets and equipment and everything else in England except myriad Buzz Bombs.

The story had been done before. Two stodgy spouses undergo some sort of traumatic experience and find their marriage improved as a result. Here, the spouses are the stuffy and boring Robert Donat ("The Thirty Nine Steps") and the whimpering hypochondriacal Deborah Kerr. The traumatic event is a three-year separation for war service -- he in the Navy and she a Wren.

During the separation they change by force of circumstances. Donat shaves his mustache and has a fling with a blond. Kerr, under the guidance of the fey Glynis Johns, has her hair redone and acquires self confidence. When they are brought back to England to spend their leave together, each liberated spouse still carries the image of the stultifying other. They didn't even kiss good-bye at their departure. Kerr, afraid to enter their apartment, calls him hysterically and demands a divorce. They meet at a nearby pub, The Coach and Horses, and each is surprised but wary at the change in the other. They flirt, quarrel, part, and make up. It ends happily with an embrace in front of the window of their flat, overlooking a blitzed London overhung with barrage balloons, a fresh new morning.

It's all very well done. There aren't any belly laughs but a viewer may be forgiven for smiles of recognition at the minor ironies of life that are on full display here.

Donat is his smooth self. Kerr is winsome and girlish, slightly wall eyed, her voice slightly quivering, and completely winning, so innocent in appearance and demeanor that it would be obscene to think of her legs. I couldn't help it so I did it anyway.

You'll probably enjoy this. The script isn't high flown. This isn't Shakespeare; it's everyday life. But all the characters are precise and somewhat elegant in their speech. The Brits always sound a little more elegant than the rest of us.

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8 out of 9 people found the following review useful:

Two ugly ducklings.

Author: dbdumonteil
6 July 2008

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Robert Donat and Deborah Kerr playing together .Nuff said.Even if the movie were abysmal ,it would be worth a look.

But abysmal it is not;it's good,nay splendid.At the beginning of the movie ,none of the principals is attractive: Robert looks like an old maid (his wife dixit) ,his nine-to-five world in an office made his life a humdrum life.Catherine never makes up (when Glynis Johns advises her to put lipsticks ,whe is confused: "my husband would not like me to");when Robert shows her photograph to his military pals,they are polite when they say she is discreet,reserved.

Both join the navy ,and WW2 turns two ugly ducklings into two beautiful swans :Robert looks great in his uniform and Catherine has learned to show herself off to advantage.But they find strangers in their place.

London has to be rebuilt and they have to rebuild their life.


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