'Ethel & Ernest': Seattle International Film Festival movie review
The British animated film "Ethel & Ernest" (screening at the 43rd Seattle International Film Festival starting May 19) celebrates the working-class British demeanor and one modest family's experiences through extraordinary events of the 20th century.
In short: Based on Raymond Briggs' graphic novel, this adaptation chronicles his parents' relationship through the years, starting in the last '20s through the '70s. Brenda Blethyn ("Secrets & Lies") and Jim Broadbent ("Iris" and "Moulin Rouge!") star.
There's no real plot to speak of here - but that's the appeal of "Ethel & Ernest." This is a loving tribute to a simple life well lived. The concerns and aspirations of this working-class London couple are similar to that of any married couple. It's reminiscent of the comedy-drama "Another Year" or even the more recent poetic drama "Paterson."
The film offers a ground-level look at the major events of the 20th century through the eyes of everyday folk. As Germany begins invading countries, the married couple have differing levels of concern - until the war is brought to their streets and they have to install blackout curtains and consider the safety of their young son.
There's a charm in watching the Briggs marvel at the wonders of new technologies (like the radio and television) while they politely bicker about the ebbs and flows of British politics through the decades. It's infused with a sweetness for its two unassuming protagonists, as they weather parenthood, marriage and World War II. Blethyn and Broadbent are perfectly cast as the titular characters - their lighthearted voice work imbues a lighthearted consistency that remains upbeat.
And fans of "The Snowman" - one of the great and lovely Christmas-theme animated stories - will appreciate the quick Easter eggs in this film. As with "The Snowman," this story doesn't rely on melodrama or dramatic upheavals to tell a heart warming story. Briggs relies on sincerity to tell stories that instantly feel familiar.
Final verdict: An overall warmth permeates this fond slice-of-life and loving portrait from a son to his parents. "Ethel & Ernest" is a tender tribute to marriage and responsibility for a family living through good times and bad. It is intimately personal yet totally accessible.
"Ethel & Ernest" screens at the 2017 Seattle International Film Festival beginning May 19. This British animation is unrated and has a running time of 94 minutes.