Thursday, August 09, 2007

the best years

I had the opportunity to catch about half of my probably most favorite film of all time last night. It is the story of three veterans of WWII returning to a small town home, trying to put the pieces of their lives together. The Best Years of Our Lives was made in 1947, and so must have struck a chord with many vets and their families at the time. It is a brilliant film, perfectly cast and acted. There is absolutely nothing cloying or overly sentimental about it. Director William Wyler had the courage to cast a real vet who lost his lower arms in the war as one of the main characters, and his performance makes the movie. You can never forget the price servicemen and their families paid every time this young man appears on screen. My favorite scene in the movie is at the end, when he has to decide whether he'll be able to face his longtime childhood friend and sweetheart and know if her love can bear his disability. He shows her what his bedtime routine is like, removing the harness for his artificial arms and struggling into a nightshirt and then bed. Her loving response to him is a moment that takes my breath away every time I watch the scene. What a picture of the incredible healing power of unconditional love.

Screen veterans Myrna Loy and Frederich March portray a long married couple with actress Theresa Wright an adult daughter. Once again, the responses and reactions of all three have such a sterling ring of truth you can't escape feeling right along with them all. Their daughter, Peggy, falls for a vet whose marriage has disintegrated and is just a coupling of two strangers. Once again, the tension and pain of separation seems to have followed these vets into every situation they encounter upon their return. And love, whether old or new, faltering or steady, is the thread that holds them together.

When I watched this movie again for the umpteenth time, it was still so impactful and fresh. I had just returned from a leadership meeting of the recovery ministry I serve with, and I couldn't help but think the people who are a part of this group remind me of these returning vets. I think of my son, though not gone from home for such an exalted purpose, will still find life much changed when he returns. Life is much changed for those who suddenly or not so suddenly were touched by disaster and have responded by turning their lives around, determined never to live the same way again. What can be counted on? There is only one thing, and that is love. The love of God. The love of understanding people. The love of parents, friends and fellow believers who held on to the hope that one day these prodigals would return. What power it has.


Post a Comment

<< Home