37. The Best Years of Our Lives (1946)

Three World War II veterans return home to small-town America to discover that they and their families have been irreparably changed.

I so wish this film dove deeper than it does. The Best Years of Our Lives, directed by William Wyler and written by Robert E. Sherwood, only scratches the surface of what life for returning veterans.  All three veterans in the film are dealing with something different: one lost both of his hands and now has hooks, one returns to the woman he married just before shipping out to find that he no longer feels the same way, and one struggles to return to his job as a banker and let’s his penchant for alcohol take over a bit. 

I think it’s safe to say that this film lays a loose blueprint for the films that followed that tackled the same subject. Again, I’m mainly just disappointed because there was so much potential to dive deeper into the subject and instead the film chose to still have a very patriotic feel. But, I suppose, at the time, that producer Samuel Goldwyn would never let a film that greatly criticized the US Armed Services get by him. And that really is a shame, because had there been earlier depictions in film of how the US government nearly abandons its veterans upon returning from war, certain aspects of this country’s history may have been altered. But, it wouldn’t be until much later, with the Vietnam War, that we see film’s really depicting the difficulty of returning to civilian life. 

Other than that, I don’t have much to say about this film. I understand why it is on AFI’s list, but I don’t know if it’s one that should still be on the list. The acting was good and Wyler did a nice job directing, as usual. But, other than that, the film isn’t very memorable to me. Plus, the two hour and fifty minute run time did not help. There are plenty of other films that have the same themes that could easily replace this one on AFI’s Greatest 100 Films list. 

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