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War Bride (2001) - Plot Summary Poster

(2001)

Plot

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Summaries

  • WW2: In London, Lily marries a Canadian soldier who goes off to war. She and her newborn daughter are invited to come and live with his family in Canada, where conditions are not as splendid as he had described. And nobody knows if and when he will return.


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The synopsis below may give away important plot points.

Synopsis

  • During World War II, a part of London has just suffered another bombing. Amidst the wreckage and rubble, firemen try to douse fires, but four young women, including Lily (Anna Friell) and Sophie (Julie Cox), are walking through carrying flashlights and seemingly unfazed by the destruction. They entered a rollicking dance hall, merry and looking for fun. The girls trade innuendos with some Canadian soldiers who enter, and Lily finds herself attracted to one of them, Charlie Travis (Aden Young), from Springhill, Alberta, and dances with him. He teases her by comparing her to Ginger Rogers. They share some background: Charlies father has died, leaving a mother and sister, and Lily was abandoned as a child, growing up at the Norfolk School. Her friends are the closest thing to family that she has. They watch Charlies friend, Louie (Benjamin Boyd), dance with Lily's friend Sophie. Later, as they are sitting around, Louis tells Sophie he lives on a 12-acre estate in Montreal. Charlie, not to be outdone, brags about his ranch in Alberta. The girls aren't sure exactly where Alberta is ("somewhere near Hollywood, I think?" one of them guesses) and Charlie agrees, saying that he lives just down the road from John Wayne. The girls giggle, not sure whether to believe him or not. Another air alarm goes off, and everyone quiets and glances sky-ward.

    The next day, the girls are gathered around a magazine, reading outloud to each other as they take a break from their seamstress jobs. The manager shoos them back to work, but another air horn goes off. They are obviously used to it, as they duck under the sewing machines, passing around cigarettes.

    Charlie and Lily are on the way to a date, and decide to investigate an abandoned Underground station. Their kisses become more and more urgent, but are interrupted by the faint sound of an air alarm, and a rush of people who crowd into the Underground to wait out the alarm.

    Lily, with her sewing skills, has made a wedding dress out of a white tablecloth for herself she and Charlie are getting married. Sophie is also marrying Louis the following week, in a synagogue! she exclaims. After a short ceremony, they are married, and eagerly enjoy their wedding night, "in a regular bed," Charlie whispers as he removes her gown. He notices a jagged scar on her back, and asks her about it. "The war," she shrugs. He assures her that he will take care of her forever, and they embrace.

    A week later, Charlie and Louis are called to deploy. As he is leaving, she whispers to him that she thinks shes pregnant. He is astonished, but is forced onto a truck before he can even respond. As he and Louis leave, the girls call to them to keep your peckers up! They are confused by the slang, but there's no time to explain they are off.

    Nine months later, Lily is in labor, alone and crying. She has a little girl, Lindy Jane. Charlie, at the front, writes in a journal as he is riding in the back of a truck with other soldiers, some of whom are injured.

    Sophie and Lily are rooming together, and as Lily is playing with her baby, Sophie comes to the door. "Lil?" she asks quietly, and when Lily looks up, Charlie is standing behind Sophie. He has three days leave, and Lily is thrilled to be able to introduce him to his new daughter. The three days pass quickly, and Charlie has to return to duty.

    Weeks pass, and one day, Sophie comes running into their flat, frantically calling for Lily. Two special delivery letters have arrived. Lily mutters that she can't believe they'd have both died at the same time, and they anxiously rip into the letters. The letters inform them that they are going to be going to Canada, and to report to a train on March 30, 1943 in three days. They are thrilled they are part of an exodus of young women and children of Canadian soldiers who are being moved from London for safety. Lily is taken aback at the speed, and thinking that shes only seen her husband for 13 days, she is still thrilled at the prospect of safety and plenty for her and her daughter.

    After they land, the train first stops in Montreal, where Sophie meets Louis family. They are obviously wealthy, and have even brought a fur coat for her, to protect her from the cold. "I've hit the bleedin' jackpot!" she exclaims excitedly to Lily. They tearfully part there, as Lily continues on to Alberta.

    After a long journey, Lily arrives in Alberta, at a small dusty station with a few stores and buildings around it. Her welcome is very different from Lily's -- a sullen older woman and a disapproving young woman, dressed in dowdy work clothes, meet her. They are disapproving -- she seems like an exotic bird, as she and her daughter are both wearing jaunty red cowboy hats. His sister Sylvia (Molly Parker) coldly tells Lily that "we don't wear those," here as she leads Lily to the car. On the way to the ranch, Lily is laughingly telling Charlie's mother, Betty (Brenda Fricker) and sister how they met. His family grimly informs her that they haven't heard from him in three months and the paycheck they used to receive to help with expenses is now going to her, as his wife.

    The ranch turns out to be a small farm out in the plains of Alberta. Lily is taken aback. "Bloody hell," she mutters, realizing that Charlie has exaggerated his home place. Betty and Sophia show her to a small bedroom that she will share with Lindy. When Lily asks about the barn, Sylvia shows her the outhouse, and explains that it is the barn. Lily lifts her chin and declares, "Well, in Europe, we call it the lavatory," and gamely enters.

    Betty offers her a pair of work shoes. "They're ugly!" Lily exclaims. "They're warm," Betty declares. Later, Lily twirls into the kitchen, wearing a shapeless grey dress with a jaunty scarf wrapped around her waist. "This is how we wear scarves in London!" she chirps. Sylvia sneers, and reminds her that shes not in London anymore, as Betty furiously kneads bread. Lily creeps back to her bedroom. Later, Betty goes into her bedroom and withdraws a faded picture of her wedding day and gazes at it, reaching into her dress to stroke her breast as she lays the photo dreamily against her cheek.

    The next morning, Lily enters the kitchen as breakfast is being made. "Want some eggs?" Betty asks. Lily perks up, telling her that she hasn't had eggs since before the war. "Well, then, put on your boots and go get em," Betty tells her. Lily gamely marches out to the chicken coop to retrieve eggs from uncooperative chickens. Over breakfast, Lily asks where the nearest town is. Betty tells her that Springhill is the nearest, seven miles to the north. Lily can't believe that that dusty little stop was Springhill, and asks where the nearest town is, one with a picture house and stores. Sylvia tells her the nearest town like that is Drayton, which is sixty miles away, and "would cost you 40 cents in gas just to get there."

    Back in her room, Lily reviews her finances -- not enough to return to London. She hears someone arrive, and is excited to meet someone. Changing her clothes, she enters the kitchen, to see a local girl about her age, Peggy (Caroline Cave), having her hair and nails done by Betty and Sylvia. "Looks like a salon in here!" she exclaims, and Betty tells her, testily, that since she gets all of Charlies paycheck, they have to find some way to make money. Peggy is apparently a good friend of Charlie's and is friends with Betty and Sylvia, too. Together, the three of them mock Lily's attempt to offer tea, her suggestion for a different color of nail polish ("But Charlie's favorite color is pink," simpers Peggy) and make fun of her dress. Lily leaves, wounded. As Peggy leaves, she mockingly tells Sylvia "Ta-ta!" and Sylvia responds, "Come back for a cuppa!", cruelly imitating Lily. Betty tries to shush her, but Lily comes storming out of her bedroom. She declares that she has been through a war, a trip overseas to a strange country with a baby and is now in a place where she's not welcome. She thrusts money at Betty and tells her "This is Charlie's pay I think it belongs to you." Betty hesitantly accepts it, and Lily angrily flounces back to her room.

    One afternoon, Lily is drowsing in a tin tub, enjoying a bath. Hearing footsteps, she is startled by a delivery boy, Joe (Loren Dean), who is equally startled and abashed at having come upon a lady in her bath. Sylvia runs to the door as Joe apologizes, assuring her that "I ain't seen nothing, sweetpea!" as Lily frantically wraps herself in a towel and disappears (despite his furtive peeks around the door jamb). Sylvia is obviously sweet on Joe, and introduces him as Peggy's brother. As she pours him a cup of coffee, he offers it to Lily, much to Sylvia's dismay. Sylvia nudges her own coffee toward Joe as Lily leaves.

    Lily walks to Springhill, looking for a job, but no one is interested in hiring her. When she returns, Betty and Sylvia's salon is going full speed as they work on two older women, one of whom whispers loudly to her friend, "She looks like a TRAMP!" Lily hears them talking about her from her bedroom, and is alternately discouraged and angry.

    One evening, on a trip back from the outhouse, she looks in a storage shed, and to her delight, she discovers an old treadle sewing machine. She dusts it off, repairs it, and to try it out, she cuts up her wedding dress made out of a tablecloth, and makes a fancy apron for Betty, who accepts it with pleasure. She offers Sylvia a slinky slip by "Lily of London!", but Sylvia refuses it and goes to her room, crying. Lily follows her, asking her what is the matter. Sylvia is despondent that a slinky slip wont hide the fact that she has a withered leg, from polio. Lily tries to show Sylvia that she isn't the only one with scars, and shows her the large scar on her back, but Lily refuses her overtures of friendship and dashes out. Betty comes in, and tells Lily to stop putting ideas in Sylvia's head, and that Charlie may have liked her "smart, city ways," but they were simple country folk and to leave Sylvia alone. Lily is confused and frustrated.

    One day, as she is bringing eggs in from the chicken coop, an elegant black Rolls Royce drives up. Sophie emerges from the car, beautifully dressed, on a surprise visit. Shrieking in delight, Lily and Sophie fall into each others arms. Betty and Sylvia are suspicious of Sophie, with Sylvia brusquely telling Sophie to cover yourself when Sophie's skirt hitches over her garters. Lily whispers that she thinks Betty and Sylvia are hiding Charlie's letters to her. Sophie and Lily retreat to Lily's bedroom, where Sophie angrily starts to pack Lily's clothes, angry at Charlie for lying to Lily and dismayed at the conditions Lily is living in. Lily says that she will think about it, but when Sophie returns the next day to pick her up and take her back to Montreal, Lily refuses to leave, hoping that things will get better and that Charlie will be home, soon.

    Betty begins to thaw towards Lily, and teaches her how to drive the farms car. As they laugh at Lily's efforts, Sylvia watches in disapproval.

    Lily goes into town to buy some sewing supplies. Peggy waits on her, but tells her that there is no yellow, eggshell blue or scarlet red thread to be had. "People around here definitely don't like scarlet," she says, meaningfully. But Lily, wearing a red dress, is up to the challenge. "Oh, thats right, they like pink," she says, remembering Peggy's taunt. "At least, they used to!" As Lily returns to the car, Joe helps her with her packages, and furtively hands her three spools of thread yellow, blue and red. He winks and tells her that some men in the town do like red. She thanks him.

    Lily is getting ready to drive to Drayton. Betty is worried she isn't ready, but Lily is confident. Lily tries to coax Sylvia into accompanying her, but she refuses. As Lily drives off, Betty tells Sylvia that she has too much pride, and to make the point, she takes the apron that Lily has made her from a drawer and puts it on, proudly.

    When Lily arrives in Drayton, she enters a drugstore clutching an advertisement she has seen. In a small sound booth, she makes a record for Charlie, where she tells him how much she misses and loves him.

    Back in Springhill, she enters the dry goods store and hands Peggy a gift, a slip, "in London they call it a teddy," that she has made for Peggy. Peggy is surprised, and at first refuses. Lily begs her to accept it, telling her that she wants to be friends. She invites Peggy and her family to dinner that evening for an English-style dinner. As Lily leaves, she catches a glimpse of Joe working. He pauses a moment to tip his hat to her, and Lily drives away.

    Before dinner, Sylvia hesitantly enters the kitchen wearing a pretty new dress that Lily has made her. Peggy is worried that it might be too trendy, and wonders if Joe will like it. Lily assures her that he will, and offers to teach her how to dance. Sylvia refuses, claiming that she can't dance because of her leg, buy Lily is firm: "Stop with your bloody boring leg! I'm tired of hearing about it!", and teaches Sylvia some simple steps, eliciting a smile from the dour Sylvia. Joe, Peggy and their mother arrive for dinner, a steak-and-kidney pie, blood pudding, bubble-and-squeak, and other English delicacies. Betty enthusiastically eats, but Joe and Peggy's mother turns up her nose at it, declaring that she can't eat it. Joe tells her that he'll eat it, earning a smile from Lily. After dinner, Sylvia asks Joe to dance, and they tentatively take a few turns around the living room. Sylvia is nervous and clumsy, and stops. Joe asks Lily to dance, but she demurs. Peggy and Joe insist, so she relents, changes the music to something more bouncy, and demonstrates some dance moves. Sylvia is upset that Joe is enjoying the dance lesson.

    After everyone has gone home, Lily excitedly comes to Sylvia's room, exclaiming that she thought the night went well. Sylvia is angry, though, and accuses Lily of being "a slut." Lily is taken aback as Sylvia furiously accuses Lily of first stealing Charlie from Peggy, and now trying to steal Joe from her. Lily vehemently denies it, and Sylvia says she has no chance of attracting Joe with Lily around, because of her leg. Lily tells her to stop leaning on her "bloody, boring leg and get on with your life", and slams out of the bedroom.

    Lily has had enough. Dressing Lindy and taking some money from the money jar in the kitchen, she slips out that night with the car, driving to Springhill. Knocking on the door of the dark dry goods store, she asks for Joe. She asks Joe to take her to Drayton, so she can catch a bus to Montreal -- she doesn't want to take the car to Drayton and be accused of being a thief. Joe tells her that he wishes she wouldn't leave, and leans in for a kiss. It's been a long time, and while Lily at first returns the kiss, she quickly pulls away, reminding Joe that shes married. Joe attempts to kiss her again and asks if she still loves Charlie. Lily admits that its been so long that she can't even remember what he looks like, but that she loved him. Joe offers to drive her to Drayton, but she changes her mind and refuses, and returns to the farm early in the morning. Betty and Sylvia are sitting at the kitchen table and stare at her as she walks in, but take Lindy from her arms, and offer her some breakfast, without any questions.

    Lindy continues her sewing business, making teddys for the ladies in town, but disappointed at not receiving letters from Charlie or Sophie. She also gives Sylvia driving lessons, to Betty's amusement.

    One day, while hanging laundry, Lindy comes around the back the house, whimpering. Lily follows her back into the house and finds Charlie standing in the living room. "Charlie!" "Hello, Lil," he says sheepishly. She flies into his arms, but he seems overwhelmed with his homecoming, saying that he hardly recognized his home. As she rushes to get him a piece of pie, Betty and Sylvia enter the room. At first they don't see Charlie, but when they see him, they joyously embrace him, and he hugs them back enthusiastically Lily doesn't miss that his hugs for his sister and his mother are longer and more emotional than the perfunctory hug she received.

    That night, they awkwardly prepare for bed, Lily wearing a scanty teddy, and Charlie in his long underwear, obviously not eager to resume marital relations. Lily rolls over and bids him goodnight. Waking up early the next morning, she throws on robe over her teddy and finds Charlie drinking and looking through his journal, and asks him what's wrong. He frowns at her attire, and tells her to "cover up, my mother is in this house." She is taken aback and reminds him that she used to like it. He tells her that they aren't in London anymore, and she responds, "Dont I know it!"

    She's awakened one morning with the sound of hammering and sawing outside her window. Charlie has decided to build a bathroom, to work with his hands again. She asks about Louie, whether or not he's home yet, but Charlie avoids looking at her and mutters that he doesn't know. She begs him to talk to her, she has missed having someone to talk to, but he cuts her off abruptly, telling her that she doesn't know what he's been through.

    Betty and Lily talk about Charlie's behavior as they pluck a chicken. Betty tells her about her husband, Frank, and advises Lily to give Charlie time. Later, Lily drives into Springhill and uses the phone to call Sophie, but Sophie isn't there, and Lily leaves her a message.

    Joe comes out to the farm to welcome Charlie home, and offers to help with the building of the bathroom. Charlie tells Joe that Lily has said that Joe has looked after them, and thanks him. Joe is somewhat abashed, but shrugs it off and begins to help.

    The family throws a welcome home party for Charlie, and invite friends from Springhill. Charlie eyes Lily's bright red dress and asks, dubiously, if that's what shes wearing. Peggy, Joe and their mother are the first to arrive, and Peggy greets Charlie diffidently. More people arrive, and a little boy asks Charlie what the war was like, and if he killed anyone. Charlie avoids answering, and the boy declares, with disappointment, "Oh, I thought you were a hero!" and stomps away. Lily coaxes Charlie into dancing with her, but hes a little too drunk and misses steps. Joe asks Sylvia to dance, declaring that they have to show Lily and Charlie how its done. Charlie is surprised, and mumbles, "She can't dance," and Sylvia spiritedly replies,"Oh, yes, I can!" After a few beats, Peggy, overcome with jealousy, suggests that Joe and Lily dance," just like the night your truck broke down and you were kissing and dancing on the back road." Lily is shocked, and Joe, staring at Peggy, tells her softly that she is heartless. Charlie is angered, and takes a drunken swing at Joe. He then asks Lily what she's doing there -- is it because she loves him, or just saw an easy way out of London? She is crying, and Betty shouts at him to be quiet -- she's lost her husband, and almost lost her son, and reminds him that his home, family and friends are irreplaceable. Lily runs sobbing from the room. In their room, Charlie asks if she wants to go home, and she says that she does. He tells her that even if she goes home, she might find that it's all changed and how does she get over that? He is feeling adrift and unsure, and tells her that he's sorry. Lily tells him that she doesn't blame him they were both so young. Charlie shakes his head and says tiredly that he feels like he's lived a hundred years.

    A few days later, Sophie appears unexpectedly. She greets Charlie, but then breaks into tears and hugs Charlie hysterically. Sophie and Charlie both tell Lily that Louie is dead -- he didn't tell her because he couldn't talk about it, and Sophie tells her that he was taken prisoner and died in a camp. Lily breaks down into tears, and Sophie tells her that she is returning to London.

    A few weeks later, Joe is visiting and the family is listening to the radio, and suddenly hear that the war is over. The family is overjoyed, hugging and crying and Lily is staring wistfully at the radio, holding Lindy. Charlie, in uniform, and Lily drive into Springhill to watch the celebration of the end of the war. Charlie winces at bit at the fireworks, but they are both excited by everyone gathering and singing. At one point, Charlie just stops and looks at Lily for a long moment, and then steps forward for a brief kiss. Another soldier see Charlies uniform, and turns to silently salute him. Charlie nods in understanding.

    Another day, Joe is helping Sylva wash dishes, and asks her if she thinks there's something special about him, "the way I think there's something special about you." She agrees, and he tells her that he thinks they get along really good. She is taken aback, but smiles, pleased.

    Charlie enters their bedroom while Lily is sewing, and shows her the journal he kept during the war, so she will understand what he went through. Cautiously, she flips through the pages, reading snatches here and there. He tells her "I had never even been to Calgary, before the war," and breaking down into tears, tells her that he had never been a religious man, "but now I pray for . . . (sobs) . . . I'm just so tired . . ." Lily comforts him and they embrace.

    Later, Betty takes a small tin box into her bedroom, reaches into the back of her chest, and withdraws an object that we don't see, but makes a metallic click as she places it in the box. She takes the box to the family cemetery, and, digging a small hole at Frank's grave, she carefully buries the box with an air of finality, and sits next to his tombstone, gazing at the clouds.

    Lily and Charlie begin to find their way back to each other. Climbing the water tower, they giggle at the view while sitting on the ledge, Charlie draws Lily into his lap and they begin to kiss . . . with the promise of more kisses to come.

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