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Movie Review: How Green Was My Valley (1941)
The movie revolves around the life of the Morgan’s who are a Welsh mining family. The film covers a period of about 50 years in which the story unfolds through the eyes of the family’s youngest son Huw. The family struggles to survive through strikes, unionization, and child abuse. The culture of the town dwindles. The head of the Morgan family, Mr. Gwilym is a domineering patriarch who wants a good life for his children and especially for young Huw. The issues surrounding the coal mining such as the strikes cause strife, separation of families, and other hurdles through loss of income, family cohesiveness and the enjoyment of social gatherings. Incidences such as the mine disaster add to the sorrowful socioeconomic status of Morgan’s town and its inhabitants. In all the film manages to tell the story of the sufferings of the ancient European mining places such as the South Wales coal mining valleys. It factors issues of destruction of the environment and the social cohesiveness of families.
The film is a classic presentation of how life was in the formative days of the UK and other developed countries. Apparently, energy was a major resource for economic growth, and many people trooped towards the energy generation industry with the hope of making better lives. However, as the depicted by the plight of the Morgan’s there was a lot at stake. There were industrial disasters at stake due to underdeveloped technology. There were unionization issues and strikes because of greed and poorly structured working conditions among others. These issues coming at a time when coal was the largest source of energy necessitated that some people such as the Morgan’s persevere and produce energy to earn livelihoods and support their economies.
At the beginning of the movie, an older how Morgan laments the effects that coal-mining had had on his people. He states that he would be packing his belongings and “gong from my valley” (Ford). He swears never to return fearing how coal had blackened the valley and the villages. In this case, coal is portrayed as unavoidable. As much as the coal mining had blackened the people in Huw’s valley, they stuck to their work and their village. Huw’s statement shows that he could have tried to run away from his village previously only to be pulled back by the lucrativeness yet dirty coal mining work.
Energy security is another dominant issue in the film. As the old Huw recounts of his early childhood in the coal mining town, it is evident that that there had been massive changes between his heydays and the current time when the mining has dried up. Energy production gave security to the people. It breathed life into the society. Huw remembers the Methodist preachers, the migration to America, and the lively socialist strikers. He also recalls the forbidden romances that characterized his days. As such, the production of coal seems to have provided considerable socioeconomic security to the people. At some point, Huw was offered a scholarship to study abroad but he declined and chose to work in the mines. This shows that the energy industry provided better security for life than education going by the choices that the people in the coal-mining valley made.
The mention of a coal disaster, the blackening of the village and the people all point to a damaged environment. The soot from the coal mining seems to have been quite destructive to plant and human life in the valley.
Crowther, B. (1941, October 29). How Green Was My Valley (1941) A Beautiful and Affecting Film Achievement Is "How Green Was My Valley," at the Rivoli. Retrieved April 23, 2015, from NYTimes: http://www.nytimes.com/movie/review?res=9E05E4D91E3FE13BBC4151DFB667838A659EDE
Ford, J. (Director). (1941). How Green Was My Valley (1941) [Motion Picture].
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