“The War Bride” is a World War II drama set in Alberta, Canada, a setting no doubt as foreign to most moviegoers as to the thousands of British soldiers that flocked there. There’s no life and death Blitz environment here – the film depicts a slow, cold and lonely life, in the hinterlands of western Canada during the war.
“The War Bride” tells the story of the women who married Canadian soldiers and then prepared to move to the modern world. The movie opens with a group of girls(led by Anna Friel), moping around the bars of London, searching for their meal tickets in the form of tough, virile soldiers. Soon, Friel’s character, Lily, falls in love with a soldier named Charlie(Aden Young). They get married and the next thing we know, Lily is scooping dung in the prairies. So much for the bombast and pageantry of Pearl Harbor.
It’s funny to see the reaction on Lily’s face, the first time she sees her humble, dark surroundings, much like Jessica Lange’s reaction in “Blue Sky” to her new lodging. It’s here we discover that we’ve left the battlefield, more or less, and settled down to the lives of the family, namely Lily’s in laws, played with hard edged honesty by Molly Parker(“Kissed”) and Brenda Fricker(“My Left Foot”). The war rages on outside of their cocoon, but they’re trapped in the small town. When Lily finds herself pregnant, it causes a number of fights amongst the women.
This allows all of the old wounds to come out.
If “The War Bride” sounds like an unimaginative, boxed in, TV framed film, then it’s a good thing that the film trumpets its special qualities, namely the acting. Each member of the cast creates their own little character, complete with subtleties and human quirks. The other good thing about “The War Bride” is its look. The film is continuously able to find depth and vision in the dark, isolated shadows. The sense of isolation is thick.
This film reminded me of “Wedding in White”(1972), a little seen war drama about two soldiers who return home to a small Canadian town, one of whom rapes the daughter of Donald Pleasence who ends up going mad. Both films are about different kinds of feminine heroism, but the looks of the films are uncanny in their ability to stay with you with their sense of undiscovered country. Director Lyndon Chubbuck has gone to painstaking lengths, on a shoestring budget, to establish a transition between the Hollywood vision of world war two and the bleak honesty that feels more authentic and stylish.
“The War Bride” isn’t a remarkable film and it won’t be around twenty years from now. There’s a certain gracelessness to the first half of the film. But it’s a good film on its own terms: Rugged, honest, and quietly earthy. If nothing else, it’s a “war movie” we’ve never seen before, which is some kind of achievement.