17 June 2018



'If I should die, think only this of me:
That there's some corner of a foreign field
That is for ever England.'
Rupert Brooke,

'They were comrades-in-arms and rivals in love. Fifty years later, history is repeating itself in Normandy.'

Oh wow. Get the hankies ready for this one, particularly for the super-emotional ending. I cried buckets at the ending myself. Even the poem from which the title derives, THE SOLDIER by Rupert Brooke, is one of the most beautiful, emotional and emotive poems ever written about war and would bring a tear to the eye of a brass monkey.

In other words, prepare to have your feels forcibly unpacked from the box in which you normally keep them and subjected to a right royal manhandling here, lol. It's infinitely worth it, though. This is a wonderful film and one I'm glad I saw.

Leo McKern (RUMPOLE OF THE BAILEY) plays Cyril, an elderly Englishman (oh, sooooooo very English!) who is returning to Normandy in France nearly fifty years after he fought there as a young soldier in World War Two's D-Day Landings.

He is accompanied by a man his own age called Amos, magnificently played by Alec Guinness, a man who can only speak the odd word and who seems to need constant care and attention. Amos has a favourite jam-jar and GI Joe doll and Cyril's occasional impatience with and briskness towards Amos do nothing to hide the affection that exists between the two men.

Staying at the same hotel is Waldo, an elderly American man who also fought the Germans in France nearly half a century ago. He too is taking a trip down memory lane accompanied by his daughter Beverly (Geraldine Chaplin) and his son-in-law Ralph.

Ralph is utterly hen-pecked by the permanently uptight and joyless Beverly, who looks as though a smile would crack her thin, pinched face, the face that constantly exhibits a sourpuss expression. She's preoccupied by the wealth she'll come in to when her father kicks the bucket and Waldo is well aware of this fact, making the occasional sarcastic reference to it.

Lauren Bacall as the recently-widowed Lisa is here at the hotel too. She's a sad, lonely woman who drinks too much, but she's also a lovely decent person who's come to France to pay her respects at her brother's grave, her brother having fallen in World War Two as well. Lisa befriends first a wandering Amos and then Cyril, and soon becomes a firm friend and an important part of their French vacation.

On their first night in France, Cyril and Waldo discover, much to their amazement, that they've each returned not only to relive their memories of the war but to look up the same woman, a blonde beauty called Angelique whom they both slept with back in the day.

Angelique is an absolute character. She's gas craic altogether. When she was a young woman in wartime France, she was free and easy with her favours. She was an equal opportunities young hooker who slept with the French, the Germans, the English and the Americans alike. She didn't discrminate at all, lol.

Now Angelique, seventy-five-years old if she's a day, still has the long blonde hair, the red lipstick and accessories, the tight little outfits and the high heels she favoured in her youth. Picking her up at the retirement home where she's now a resident, the lads are horrified at first by her slightly garish appearance but they quickly get used to it.

They remind themselves that, for the pleasure she gave them both back in World War Two, the least they can bloody well do for her now is give her a damn good day out, away from the Home, and a slap-up feed in a top restaurant.

Lisa is enchanted by Angelique's mischievous joie-de-vivre and disarming frankness and even the joyless Beverly can learn a thing or two from such a free spirit who still believes in living life to the fullest. Angelique certainly has the right idea. Not entirely sure I approve of the kleptomania, though...! Here in Ireland we're a little more uptight about such matters, lol.

As the film progresses, we learn what Amos is to Cyril and why Cyril has elected to be his carer for the best part of fifty years. The back-story is very moving and I think that you can probably guess at part of it. We also learn who the famous 'Briggsy' is whom Amos keeps chattering about and why this will be Amos's last ever trip to France.

Oddest of all, we find out who Lisa's soldier brother was and why she thinks his identity might affect her friendship with Cyril, Amos, Waldo and the gang. Hankies at the ready, everyone! The tears will flow at this final cemetery scene like the designer coffee and Peruvian leaf tea at a hipster wedding. Amos's unshakeable dignity is the most heartbreaking thing of all to witness.

The film is peppered throughout with snatches of the old songs like THE WHITE CLIFFS OF DOVER, LILI MARLENE and WE'LL MEET AGAIN. Amos has a great talent for the harmonica and he uses it to great effect at different times. At the dinner table in the restaurant, the irrepressible Angelique gives a marvellous impromptu performance of LA VIE EN ROSE that brings the house down.

This is a terrific feel-good film that you should move mountains to see. I leave you now with Major Edmund Blackadder's personal and rather pithy interpretation of those beautiful lines from THE SOLDIER as featured in the last BLACKADDER series, BLACKADDER GOES FORTH:
'If I should die, think only this of me:
I'll be back to get you...'

Two acclaimed BBC drama classics, A FOREIGN FIELD and THE GRASS ARENA, are out now on DVD courtesy of SIMPLY MEDIA.

SIMPLY MEDIA is one of the UK's leading DVD publishers and licensors of classic entertainment from the BBC, CHANNEL 4, HOLLYWOOD CLASSICS, MGM, UNIVERSAL PICTURES, IMPERIAL WAR MUSEUM and many other high-quality producers. Our aim is to bring lost or neglected film and TV classics to audiences searching for forgotten favourites, making them available on DVD and FIGITAL DOWNLOAD formats, often for the first time.


Sandra Harris is a Dublin-based novelist, film blogger, poet and book-and-movie reviewer. She has studied Creative Writing and Film-Making. She has published a number of e-books on the following topics: horror film reviews, multi-genre film reviews, womens' fiction, erotic fiction, erotic horror fiction and erotic poetry. Several new books are currently in the pipeline. You can browse or buy any of Sandra's books by following the link below straight to her Amazon Author Page:


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