Liverpool Sound and Vision Rating * * * * *
Cast: Jim Broadbent, Brenda Blethyn, Luke Treadaway, Roger Allam, Pam Ferris, Peter Wright, Virginia McKenna, June Brown, Simon Day, Alex Jordan, Harry Collett, Gillian Hanna, Duncan Wisbey, Karyn Claydon.
If we were all as fortunate, as happy in life as the parents of British artist, cartoonist and graphic novelist Raymond Briggs then the world would arguably be a happier place. In a touching, beautiful piece of animation, the celebrated artist’s portrayal of his mum and dad’s life from the first time they met to the day they both passed away was explored, visually described and heartbreakingly detailed with praise, attention and sheer craft in the feature length Ethel and Ernest.
This animated delight is a film that captures the very best of the animated process, understated but not under-valued, beautiful but not aggressive, understanding of the subject at hand but never once damning; this is a film of quiet honesty, of a love not only between a man and wife but of a love from the child they brought into the world.
The life and times of the couple, meeting later in life, the depth of love between them without stepping past the boundaries of supposed moral guidelines of pre-war society and the juxtapositions of their aspirations and hopes set against the brutality of facing up to the very worst of ideologies; from the respectable position of a ladies’ maid and the future of a corporation milk man, every change in life was captured whilst showing perfectly just how some things never alter, never go beyond the innocence of life.
Raymond Briggs has never shied away from being anything more than honest in his work and drawings, in the exceptional When The Wind Blows, his imagery of a couple of pensioners taking in the news and the aftermath of a nuclear attack on Britain, is chilling, haunting and vivid. So too in Ethel and Ernest is the viewer allowed to peek behind the unsavoury as the artist’s memories of the Second World War and his father’s position as an ARP warden, the sense of loss he felt when his mother descended into the fog of memory and the devastation anybody would feel when both parents pass on quickly in the matter of a few months of each other, this is the beauty that Raymond Briggs brings to his readers and the film perfectly captures that rare and emotional rollercoaster.
A fantastic piece of animation, of a story told with love and obvious affection and brought very much to life in the voices of some of the very best talent acting has to offer in the likes of Jim Broadbent, Brenda Blethyn and Roger Allam.
Rare, exceptional and charming, enough to make anything else pale into insignificance.
Ian D. Hall