Posted Oct 28 2016

Ethel & Ernest - This Movie Rocks So Sweetly

Dir: Roger Mainwood

Starring Brenda Blethyn, Jim Broadbent, Luke Treadaway, June Brown, Pam Ferris, Roger Allam

Based on the life of his parents, Raymond Brigg’s graphic novel is, very simply put, one of the finest books ever written. To capture both its sheer simplicity and its understated beauty, (in the hopes of turning it into another Snowman-like Christmas TV perennial, at the least in the UK) would be no mean feat. (We know – no pressure.)

But director Roger Mainwood and his team have done a bang up job here. With a bittersweet live action intro by Briggs himself, the film soon falls into gorgeously realised animation that brings the pages of Briggs’ finest work to life. Blethyn and Broadbent provide the perfect voices for the author’s parents as they make their way through the changes of nearly fifty years of life, both nationally and within their own home and hearth.

It’s as simple as that really. The great thing about Briggs’ book – and this film that captures it so well, is how it shows the world changing around these two central people. Yes, they go through it, yes, they hear it on the wireless, acknowledge it on this new fangled television tjingy, experience it through their long-haired art student of a son. But the world in this story remains their point of view. Change is all around, they are all within. The film has a lovely background detail, easily missed, but the clock on the mantle in their front room always reads the same time. It’s only when Ethel passes, does a new clock appear that finally seemss to be actually in synch with the rest of the world. The notion is simple, but so sincere and appropriate – these are people out of time in Brigg’s nostalgic and deeply personal recollection. They are caught in his memory, and all the more touchingly realised for being so.

Ethel & Ernest bears the weight of its source novel with great aplomb. It does it justice. It hopefully opens it up for those that haven’t read it. It is faithful – as you hope it would be.

Easily one of the highlights of the year.


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