Ethel and Ernest: a True Story
Animation directed by Roger Mainwood
Voices of Jim Broadbent, Brenda Blethyn, Luke Treadaway
Runtime: 94 minutes
Ethel and Ernest: a True Story is a superb adaptation of the best-selling graphic novel by Raymond Briggs (The Snowman, Father Christmas), which tells the story of an ordinary married couple.
No superheroes or interplanetary voyages to save the universe from aliens here. Just the growing love between Ethel and Ernest, Briggs’s parents. She is a conventional homemaker whose passion for her home beautifies and gives grandeur to motherhood; he is a milkman with Bolshie ideas but a good workman and a devoted father.
The story unfolds in London, beginning in the 1920s, passing through the dark days of World War II, and capturing the rapid cultural changes after the war, including the sexual revolution of the 70s.
Married love and the making of a comfortable home are the background music of this marvellous animation. The home is presented as that paradoxical place (in the words of G.K. Chesterton) from which we all come and to which we must always return, for it is there that we are loved unconditionally.
In contrast to dreams of consumerism, the lives of Ethel and Ernest reaffirm that the sweetness of home is found in prosaic daily details of love, not in bigger and faster cars and overseas holidays.
Amazingly, for a contemporary film, it dignifies the role of the housewife and domestic work. Without false embarrassment or inferiority complexes, Ethel is depicted as a sensible woman who knows how to love. Denying maternity and its connection with domestic work is undoubtedly a symptom of social and spiritual decadence. A humanity that sneers at maternity is dying. It’s wonderful to find a film which lovingly reaffirms the beauty of domesticity.
For his part, Ernest reflects the sacrifices that a father must make to fulfil his primary responsibility: caring for his wife and his children. Some might dismiss Ernest as an old-fashioned employee, not a dynamic entrepreneur. But he puts passion into his duties as the father-protector with great intelligence and good sense.
The music of Carl Davis helps make Ethel and Ernest an authentic animated classic. If you want to see a film which really places a strong, loving family at the centre of social life, you must watch this.
Rafael Hurtado lives in Mexico. He is a contributor to the Rome-based Family and Media website, a MercatorNet partner site. This article is an edited version of the original on the Family and Media blog. Republished with permission.