Monday, December 17, 2007

Housewife 49

I saw the most amazing drama last night, called Housewife 49. It's based on the Second World War diaries of Nella Last, the wife of a terse, insensitive man and mother to two, less than ideal sons; one, just as carelessly cruel as his father, the other who shuns her after his 'friend' is killed during the war.

Victoria Wood - better known for her comic roles - stars as Nella Last and is brilliant in the role. Nella begins writing for the Mass-Observation, a project that examined the lives of 'ordinary' people and finds an outlet for expressing the feelings she can't share with her husband.

The astonishing thing about this movie is that you never see a war reel, never see anything of the war really, only the consequences; in lives lost suddenly and more importantly, how the war affected those who survived, in particular, Nella's favoured son, Cliff.

Victoria Wood goes from a woman who is lost within the confines of her marriage and the times, to someone filled with energy and hope as she helps with the local branch of the Women's Voluntary Service. She is no longer alone, no longer isolated in her marriage. As a glimpse into the ordinary lives of people in England during the war, it's a real eye-opener.

I didn't think I'd like it much, but I was riveted from the beginning; by Woods and by the storyline. The stoicism, the grief and the inability of John to communicate effectively with Nella is perfectly played, especially as the film goes on, you see him struggling to come to terms with his wife's new found independence. The world has changed and he doesn't know how to deal with it.

Stephanie Cole as Mrs Waite, head of the Women's Voluntary Service, is as formidable as she is progressive. It's easy to see the genesis of the 'liberation' of women in Housewife 49, and if you get the chance to see it, it's worth a look.

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