Mon, 27 January 2020
From Chris Fujiwara, 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die:
"In this one-of-a-kind masterpiece by one of the greatest American directors, Victor Moore and Beulah Bondi play Bark and Lucy Cooper, an elderly couple faced with financial disaster and forced to throw themselves on the mercy of their middle-aged children. The children's first step is to separate the two of them so that the inconvenience of hosting them can be divided. Gradually, the old people's self-confidence and dignity are eroded, until they submit to an arrangement whereby one of them will stay in a nursing home in New York, and the other will go to California.
"Leo McCarey's direction in Make Way for Tomorrow is beyond praise. All of the actors are expansive and natural, and the generosity McCarey shows toward his characters is unstinting. He demonstrates an exquisite sense of when to cut from his central couple to reveal the attitudes of others, without suggesting either that their compassion is condescending or that their indifference is wicked, and without forcing our tears or rage (which would be a way of forfeiting them). There is nothing contrived about McCarey's handling of the story, and thus no escaping its poignancy.
"Two example will suffice to indicate the film's extraordinary discretion. During the painful sequence in which Lucy's presence inadvertently interferes with her daughter-in-law's attempt to host a bridge party, Lucy receives a phone call from Bark. Because she talks loudly on the phone - one of several annoying traits that McCarey and screenwriter Vina Delmar don't hesitate to give the couple - the guests pause in their games to listen. Their reactions (not emphasized, but merely shown) mix annoyance, discomfort, and sorrow.
"The last section of the film, dealing with the couple's brief reuniting and impromptu last idyll in Manhattan, is sublime. McCarey keeps us aware of the sympathy of outsiders (a car salesman, a coat-check girl, a hotel manager, a bandleader), but never imposes their reactions on us through superfluous reverse shots. Meanwhile, Lucy and Bark are constantly shown together in the same compositions. In its passionate commitment to their private universe, Make Way for Tomorrow is truly, deeply moving."
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