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When young Robert Shannon is orphaned he leaves his home in Ireland and travels to Langford, Scotland, home of his maternal grandparents. Growing up in the home of his penny-pinching grandfather is made bearable by his doting but irresponsible great-grandfather, loving grandmother and kind aunt and uncle. After a rocky start in his new school Robbie adjusts and is befriended by Gavin and Allison, whom he grows to love as the years pass. As he matures into a young man Robbie's dreams turn to medicine and becoming a doctor. Supported by everyone in the family except his grandfather, he studies for a scholarship as a way to escape life toiling in the local boiler-works. Written by
Ron Kerrigan <firstname.lastname@example.org>
The trials and triumphs of a young boy raised in a small Scotish village.
At first when I read the blurb of this film on the viewers guide I expected another "How Green Was My Valley," which had ruined coming-of-age films for me until I saw "Breaking Away" in '79. I started watching it anyway and soon found I was hooked for the next 127 minutes.
"The Green Years" demonstrate what a better film "Kings Row" could have been if someone other than Robert Cummings had played the lead. It's basically the same story set in Scotland: both take place in isolated rural towns, both deal with mental cruelty, and both deal with overcoming your circumstances to better your life. And ironically, both feature the splendid and versatile actor Charles Coburn in pivotal roles.
The people of this village seem real here, with Hume Cronin playing the tight-lipped tightwad of an extended family who "live like they're poor out of choice." Tom Drake is fine as the older Robbie Shannon, earnest and sincere, but with an increasing sense of cynicism appropriate for the role. Richard Hayden as the headmaster that befriends Robbie adds just the right amount of sanity, humor and hope you need in a story that runs over 2 hours.
But young Dean Stockwell and Coburn are magic, especially in the scene when he and 2 drunken friends try to teach young Robbie how to box. I can't recall a relationship between 2 actors on film, one very old and the other very young, that rings as fresh and honest as their's does. I think W.C. Fields and Freddie Bartholomew in "Great Expectations" come closest.
Yes, it's episodic, and perhaps a tad too long, and Norman Lloyd is wasted as one of Cronyn's sons. But if you have an affection for this sort of film made soon after the end of WWII, you won't be disappointed.
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