Ethel and Ernest - Drawn together

  • Film
Ethel and Ernest - Drawn together


Thu, 27/10/2016 - 15:24


Raymond’s evacuation – a poignant scene from Ethel and Ernest
Raymond’s evacuation – a poignant scene from Ethel and Ernest
27 October, 2016

Certificate PG

THIS film is charm personified, a beautiful, touching eulogy by one of the greatest British artists of the modern period.

Raymond Briggs’s work is part of our nation’s shared graphic language, typified by Briggs and others such as Beryl Cook, Quentin Blake, David Gentleman and Abram Games. He wrote Ethel and Ernest about the life and times of his parents, and says at the beginning, as we meet him leaning over a draughtboard, sketching out his folks, that “there was nothing extraordinary about my mum and dad.

“There was nothing dramatic. They were my parents, and I wanted to remember them by drawing a picture book.

“It is a bit weird hearing a book about my parents is up on the bestsellers’ list. They would have been proud, I suppose, but probably rather embarrassed too. They would have said ‘how can you talk about that?’ Well, I did and this is their story.”

And what a story. 

Briggs’s love letter to his parents takes us through the social history of our nation in the 20th century, told through the eyes of a family like yours and mine. 

We see how they meet: Ernest was a milkman and Ethel a maid. They fall in love over dates at the pictures, we see them buy an Edwardian terraced home, and we are taken through the private world of trying for a baby and the arrival of Raymond. 

As we sit round the grate with them, the world intrudes: the outbreak of war and then the publication of the Beveridge report that ushered in the Welfare State, Raymond’s evacuation, grammar school, cycling through roads with no cars, allotments, Derby chinaware, coal in the bath, gas to electric, rationing, Anderson and Morrison shelters, doodlebugs and the Lambeth Walk, milk floats switching from horse to battery power, telephones and the telly, the Atom bomb, Italian scooters, National Service, a Triumph Herald and a working-class boy going to art school: mid-20th century London is all here. 

This film is gentle, soppy at times in the best possible way, and simply entrancing. 

Jim Broadbent’s Ernest, with his cheerful songs and lovely turn of phrase, is spot on. 

It also heralds a return to the glorious animated era of Oliver Postgate, rather than the CGI world of cartoons today. It offers a rich viewing experience. Briggs’s brilliant graphic novels created a quintessentially English sense of storytelling, from his Father Christmas books to The Snowman and Gentleman Jim to the frightening When The Wind Blows that scared the life out of children in the 1980s.

Here we have it writ large. Superb.

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