Picks and Pans Review: Hope and Glory

updated 11/02/1987 AT 01:00 AM EST

originally published 11/02/1987 AT 01:00 AM EST

The grandiose title, the time (World War II) and the place (London during the blitz) suggest an epic of war—another booming tale of terror and blood lust from the director of Deliverance, Excalibur and The Emerald Forest. But John Boorman has a wondrous comic surprise in store. In this autobiographical film, he treads the tricky path of memory with delicacy and delight. Boorman the bulldozer has actually scripted a movie pitched to the cadences of the heart, yet remarkably free of inspirational hooey. Eight-year-old Bill Rohan, played without an ounce of kid-actor cuteness by Sebastian Rice-Edwards, is Boorman as a boy. The child's high-spirited view of the war provides the movie's focus. Young Bill isn't aghast at the Luftwaffe's raids near his suburban neighborhood; he's thrilled. Monotony is now a thing of the past. Good dull dad (David Hayman) enlists. Mom (Sarah Miles, in a terrific comeback performance) soldiers on at home with the three children—Bill, baby sister Sue (the delectable Geraldine Muir) and older sis Dawn, an overheated 15-year-old acted with wit and passion by Sammi (Mona Lisa) Davis. Bill watches goggle-eyed as his everyday world is upturned: A German pilot parachutes into the middle of town; reverberating shell fire tosses his family around the parlor; his sister dances in the garden while a nearby house burns to the ground. Boorman finds a vivid poetry in these images. And he stays alert to the humor in the most improbable situations. When Bill returns from summer vacation to discover his hated school has been bombed, he hears a classmate shout, "Thank you, Adolf." For Bill the moment is one of pure joy. Vivid, touching and fearlessly funny, Hope and Glory is a victory for all concerned. (PG-13)

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