This hand drawn animated film, based on the award winning graphic novel by Raymond Briggs, is an intimate and affectionate depiction of the life and times of his parents, two ordinary Londoners living through extraordinary events.
|Release Date||:||October 28, 2016|
|Genres||:||War, Animation, Drama|
|Production Company||:||BFI, BBC, Mélusine Productions, Lupus Films, CLOTH CAT ANIMATIONS|
|Production Countries||:||Luxembourg, United Kingdom|
|Writers||:||Roger Mainwood, Raymond Briggs|
|Casts||:||Jim Broadbent, Brenda Blethyn, Luke Treadaway, Pam Ferris, Roger Allam, Virginia McKenna, Peter Wight, Pam Ferris, Simon Day, Raymond Briggs|
Having grown up, and loving to bits (still do), the stories and animations of 'Father Christmas', 'The Bear' and particularly 'The Snowman' and similarly being blown away by 'When the Wind Blows' (another seemingly personal work and I couldn't help being reminded by that when viewing 'Ethel & Ernest'), 'Ethel & Ernest' is yet another Raymond Briggs masterwork.
This 2016 animated adaptation couldn't have been more perfectly adapted and is simply sublime also on its own. Its story structure may be somewhat episodic, but actually in no way does that matter at all in this instance. This is due to how brilliantly made 'Ethel & Ernest' was and my vast emotional connection with it. Easily a highlight of my festive-period film/television watching.
Like with 'Father Christmas', 'The Bear', 'The Snowman' and 'When the Wind Blows', the animation from start to finish is stunning, from the level of detail to the meticulousness of the drawing. Not to mention the quaint and atmospheric colours and the gut-wrenching scenes depicting World War II and how people lived during it. The music is never intrusive yet always has a presence when needed. The use of music and songs from each stage of both characters' lives giving a sense of authenticity and effectively taking one back.
Furthermore, the script has a perfect balance of gentle yet hilarious humour (the funniest lines often coming from Ethel), genuine pathos such as the genuinely heart-rending ending beautifully done and fascinating history that is either educational, takes one back or both (it is somewhat fun to spot the historical figures and events). It also has darker moments (such as the carnage and terror WWII brought) that are quite harrowing and never trivialised and a beautifully pitched, never heavy-handed but admittedly at some time painful honestly. As can be seen, the range of emotions is very wide.
The story is easily the most personal of all Briggs stories and essentially a very affectionate yet compellingly real auto-biographical tribute to his real-life parents. It is a story and tribute that is throughout immensely charming, deeply touching, funny and very honest. It is gripping from start to finish, and with a lot going on but with a gentle pace that allows the events to breathe the hour and a half length feels justified and doesn't feel too long or the content over-stretched. Structurally it may seem episodic and slight, but the content is very much eventful.
Ethel and especially Ernest themselves are very likable protagonists in all their life stages, while their chemistry and love for one another is very affectionate but sometimes imperfect, a realistic depiction of marriage. Raymond is also charmingly portrayed. While all the vocal cast do a sterling job, Brenda Blethyn and Jim Broadbent are truly outstanding and give Ethel and Ernest remarkably vivid life, making them compellingly real characters and relatable rather than stock or caricatures.
All in all, nothing to fault here, another masterful Raymond Briggs adaptation. 10/10 Bethany Cox