A nice family-friendly historical animation but I couldn't help wanting it darker and deeper
It is 1914 and a pair of brothers are happily working on their family farm and spending spare time playing football for the village in the county league. However the war with Germany means that both sign up to fight for their country and soon find themselves in the trenches on the front line. The tension is high and the conditions are poor but for one brief moment on Christmas Day, 1914, something wonderful seems to just happen.
This animation caught my eye in the crowded TV schedule and it looked quite interesting because, although I knew about it, I have never seen or really read anything about the football "match" between the two warring sides played in no man's land. This film follows our couple of characters to the trenches, showing the family's pain as they go away, the nature of life in the trenches, the peace and ease of the match and finally the sheer bloody pointlessness of the whole thing. This is all well and good but, by aiming for a family audience (I assume) they have stayed away from the reality a bit too much and have produced something that is more about introducing children to history rather than being of greater value. This can be seen in several areas but mostly it is in the animation. It looks very like The Snowman in style big round faces, smoothed surfaces and nice colours. This seems to feed into the story because everything is a bit like that and it reduces the emotional impact it can have. Credit for a last scene attempt at showing the horrific pointlessness of the front line but this was too little, too late.
The voice talent wasn't. The presence of Kate Winslet in the top billing is praiseworthy but she doesn't add much she has a small role and she is asked to produce emotion from nothing (and she can't). The rest of the cast are all a bit too cheery and "chappy" and they never for once convinced me as real people. In that regard they matched the animation by being suitable for families but being too "nice" to do anything else.
Overall this is an OK way in for families but is not dark or real enough to satisfy adults being told the story. It is all a bit too nice and soft and the dark conclusion can't cover up for how bland it had been up till that point. It does still produce an emotional reaction and it does make one shake one's head and wonder if the men could get along why their superiors couldn't, but these feelings are more to do with the story being told rather than the manner of telling.
3 of 5 people found this review helpful.
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