Saturday, 10 March 2018

Movie Review: I'll Be Seeing You (1944)

A romantic drama, I'll Be Seeing You is an involving wartime story designed for maximum sentimentality.

Christmas is approaching, and Mary Marshall (Ginger Rogers) and decorated Sergeant Zachary Morgan (Joseph Cotten) meet on a train trip in California. They are both harbouring secrets that they hide from each other: she is a prisoner on a short break for good behaviour. He is suffering from shell shock after being wounded in battle, and is on temporary release from hospital to test his emotional resilience in society.

During her furlough Mary stays at the house of her Uncle Henry and Aunt Sarah (Tom Tully and Spring Byington) and her teenaged niece Barbara (Shirley Temple). They welcome Zach to dinner and a relationship starts to blossom between him and Mary. Zach finds comfort with his new companion and reveals his condition, but Mary cannot bring herself to talk about her imprisonment, and also has to navigate around young Barbara's passive hostility.

Directed by William Dieterle and with a title derived from a hit song of the day. I'll Be Seeing You covers some of the same ground later tackled with more polish in The Best Years Of Our Lives. While I'll Be Seeing You deserves credit for delving into the world of what is now called post traumatic stress disorder, the film is less about the impacts of war and more about damaged souls helping each other heal. Dieterle delivers a purposeful and compact sub-90 minute drama, the film's efficacy matched only by its predictability.

The tension between Mary and Zach is generated by the shame they carry, and an inability to navigate towards honesty. She cannot imagine any form of bright future as a future ex-convict, and is sure revealing her status will drive away anyone who may care about her. After a couple of meltdowns Zach starts to understand that Mary is good for him and stumbles his way towards revealing his condition, creating a growing but uneven dependency.

With a sappy music score milking every scene, Dieterle carefully constructed the film for maximum tragic effect, the lovers' happiness doomed to fall into a deep pothole. I'll Be Seeing You does not disappoint in its singular intent to deliver intense romance in the face of hopelessness, with Mary and Zach carrying enough humanity to make the experience worth caring about.

Ginger Rogers and Joseph Cotten are both serviceable in the roles but both also appear older than their characters. The Marshall household provides the supporting cast, and Shirley Temple adds an enterprising dimension as the niece caught between curiosity and repulsion.

Arriving exactly at the intended station, I'll Be Seeing You is professionally syrupy.

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