1939 is set between present-day London and the idyllic British countryside in the time before the beginning of the Second World War. At a time of uncertainty and high tension, the story revolves around the formidable Keyes family, who are keen to uphold and preserve their very traditional way of life. The eldest sibling Anne is a budding young actress who is in love with Foreign Office official Lawrence, but her seemingly perfect life begins to dramatically unravel when she stumbles across secret recordings of the pro-appeasement movement. While trying to discover the origin of these recordings, dark secrets are revealed which lead to the death of a great friend. As war breaks out Anne discovers the truth and flees to London to try to confirm her suspicions, but she is caught and imprisoned and only then does she finally begin to discover how badly she has been betrayed.Written by
Though there have been books and other films that deal with the dissidence between the aristocrats and the general populace of England around the topic of WW II, this beautifully executed 'historical thriller' brings many aspects of those discrepancies of opinion to light in a manner not unlike the similar thought processes in Germany at the same time: the gentry of Germany turned a blind eye to the events surrounding them (The Final Solution) in order to believe in what they chose to believe as a promise for stabilization and world importance as a genteel country. Writer/Director Stephen Poliakoff has based his examination of this problem on focusing on the life of one particular character whose fate was the standard of the dispossessed.
The year is 1939 and the aristocratic family of Sir Alexander Keyes (Bill Nighy) and his wife Maud (Jenny Agutter) are living what seems to be an idyllic life with their children Ralph (Eddie Redmayne), Celia (Juno Temple) and the eldest, Anne (Romula Garai) who we soon discover was adopted before the Keyes discovered they could bear children on their own. Anne is a beautiful creative actress who seems to make the family proud. The family is visited by an old friend Hector (David Tennant) who at dinner is very vocal about the fact that Hitler is a threat to England and that England must stop Hitler before he destroys them instead of pursuing a course of appeasement of Hitler that would prevent disturbance of their elegant way of life on the island of England. It is obvious that Sir Alexander is more concerned with his duties as a member of parliament and his maintenance of his family history and wealth, and his responses to Hector as well as to the mysterious Balcombe (Jeremy Northam) from the Foreign Office and the young Lawrence (Charlie Cox), a new member of the Foreign Office who is courting Anne, suggest subterfuge.
The family is visited by the very proper Aunt Elizabeth (Julie Christie) and while the entire family is on picnic, an infant transiently disappears while under Anne's care. From this point the story takes a dark turn: Anne continues filming in London with her close friend, actor Gilbert (Hugh Bonneville), and Anne discovers some phonograph records in the basement of the Keyes home, records that contain not fox trots but instead 'conversations' from meetings. Suspicions about evil derring-do arise when the family learns that Hector has committed suicide soon followed by the suicide of Gilbert and eventually the bizarre discovery of Lawrence's body among the pet animals ordered to be put to death to make the people of England more ready for abrupt changes. War with Germany begins and changes the atmosphere and results in changes in the Keyes family: Anne is imprisoned by the family because 'she is really not one of us' and unravels the harrowing mystery of the Keyes' family involvement in the dark events of the present and the past.
The mood of England of 1939 is beautifully captured by cinematographer Danny Cohen and the musical score by Adrian Johnston illustrates the dichotomy of the free-spirited Anne and the dark underpinnings of the Keyes family. Romola Garai is excellent in her treacherous role as are the other stars. Small roles by Toby Regbo, Christopher Lee, Corin Redgrave and others make this a cast rich in some of the finest British actors of the day. GLORIOUS 39 ('Glorious' is the nickname given Anne) is an enlightening film that addresses many significant issues too infrequently addressed by works of history.
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