This was one of the films I was most intent on seeing when I first toyed with the idea of coming to the Bermuda International Film Festival. Based on the book of the same name, it chronicles through his own letters to his wife Faith Bower, Bermuda-born Major Toby Smith’s service in World War II. Right there you have my attention. I love the history of WWII, I love Bermuda, and as an added bonus, it features a score by my friend Steve Gallant.
Culling stock footage and amazing original photos coupled with reenactments, Spurling and Kirkpatrick have crafted a heart-touching monument to those who came from Bermuda to answer the Nazi threat.
Based on the book written by Smith’s grandson Jonathan, which incorporates the letters Smith sent and puts them in context of the war, and adapted by Spurling, the film takes us through the early days of Toby and Faith’s marriage, leading to 5 children, one not even born by the time Toby answered the call. It follows Toby across the submarine infested waters of the Atlantic, where his letters still have a wonderful naive outlook about the ‘excitement’ of war, the bombing of London, which begins to sully the boyish outlook, his frustration at being an instructor, when he longs to join his friends and comrades in combat, including the D-Day invasion.
He seeks to comfort Faith, letting her know he’s fine, that he misses her and the children. Even amongst the stiff upper lip, the keep calm and carry on sensibility that was the national representation of the United Kingdom, there is more in between the lines. This is a man so far from home, wanting to do his part, and yet completely in love with his wife and family, and struggling to find a balance.
And we know, from the outset of the film, that this will be a tragedy, Major Toby Smith died at the battle of Overloon in 1944.
For all the sniffling that was going on during the screening of the film, it neither plays up the sentimentality nor exploits it, the filmmakers simply let Smith’s words tell the story.
It is a beautiful portrait of the island, the people who come from it, and the sacrifices that war demands.
The film interviews Jonathan on camera, as well as his father, who last saw Toby when he went off to war when he was 5. That is just such a heartbreaking concept, that is the last time you ever see your father, as he walks off to fight a terrifying enemy.
Steve’s music fits the film perfectly, never overpowering it, merely augmenting the scene, as the best film scores do, there were a number of musical cues that I truly loved (you may have to send me MP3s my friend!).
The only fault I found in the film, and its more of a preference than a fault to be clear, is for the reenactments, I wish they had aged the image somehow, to separate it from the interviews and keep it more in line with the pictures and stock footage used. But as I said, personal preference. It certainly didn’t affect the screening of the film because honestly, I had two more films to get to on Saturday, but this one resonated with me so much that I knew I wouldn’t be able to concentrate on another film.
In the Hour of Victory is starting to make the festival rounds, keep an eye out for it, it’s so worth your time!