21 April 2017 | CliffUnruh
An honest, well produced motion picture with a story that fits the time.
I would caution the reader to not take too much stock in the less- than-stellar, Monday morning director, critical reviews of this film. Tom Hanks' position in the billing should be the very last, if even noted. His face time in this movie is probably less than 2 minutes total and, for all intents and purposes, Meg Ryan's character is minor. Any decent character actress could have played her role without any impact on the motion picture as a whole. This is not "Sleepless In Seattle" nor is it a spin-off of any other Meg Ryan or Tom Hanks movie. These two "box office draws" are in this motion picture because as producer (Hanks) and director (Ryan) they chose to be; perhaps for the purpose of giving this film initial gravitas or simply because they wanted to be participants in the telling of a good story and a good story this is.
This is a time-period piece conceived by William Saroyan in 1942 and published as the novel, "The Human Comedy" in 1943. Everything about this film is 1942 perhaps with the exception of the lack of recognizable, vintage 1940's music. This is a film depicting the morals and values of small town America at the beginning of the Second World War, not the values, morals, or expectations of those of us trapped so much in the present that we cannot recognize or even acknowledge the simple and far more innocent times portrayed in this film. Consequently, the gratuitous profanity so common in pictures today is refreshingly absent. This was a time when to be able to kiss a cute girl on her cheek was considered something very special to a young man heading off to war. It was a time when a little boy could get lost in town and the only real threat was that he might miss dinner. People did not lock their doors. A telegraph messenger, even though a stranger, was invited into one's home. If a person was involved in a nefarious or unseemly behavior they did their best to hide it. It was a time when a typical 14 year-old boy, like Homer Macauley (Alex Neustaedter), having experienced the Great Depression first hand, was already a responsible individual.
This was the world in which Homer rode his bicycle, delivering telegrams, picking up night letters, and doing everything he could to see that the Postal Telegraph Company could effectively compete with Western Union; all the while being the one remaining "man of the house" in the wake of his father's untimely death and his older brother's departure for service overseas. Ithaca and the nation were slowly adjusting to war as the patriotic zeal following Pearl Harbor gave way to the more sobering realities of life during wartime. The presence of a telegraph messenger at the front door was not yet perceived as a sign of bad news but those in the telegraph business, transmitting, decoding, and delivering the messages, were becoming keenly aware of the war's growing, painful impact on families. In this context, with the war's presence being increasingly felt and experienced, the small day-to-day aspects of community were the constants, giving the character of Homer's 4-year old brother, Ulysses (Spencer Howell), the unique ability to provide an endearing presence of those things that are ultimately important and reminding us that, even when things appear to be going so very badly, life is good and must go on.
Screenwriter Erik Jendresen says in his synopsis of the story line, "this is a coming-of-age story." In my view it is far more than that if, in watching the film, one will allow being transported to Ithaca, NY in 1942 and to embrace for 90 minutes or so, the values of the people living through this story at that time.