Acorn Media // 1982 // 679 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Christopher Kulik (Retired) // June 3rd, 2010
Cultures clash in wartime Britain!
The epic miniseries We'll Meet Again is a dramatization of the complex alliance between the British and U.S. Air Force personnel stationed in a Scottish village during WWII. We mainly focus on an illicit, hot-and-cold love affair between Dr. Helen Dereham (Susannah York, Superman), whose husband is fighting in Tunisia, and Major Jim Kiley (Michael J. Shannon, Wonder Woman) the Commanding Officer of the visiting American forces. We'll Meet Again contains thirteen hour-long episodes spread out over four discs.
Like most miniseries of this type, We'll Meet Again is ripe with romance, conflict, and domestic scandal. Some will be bored out of their skulls; others will soak everything up like a sponge, compelled to watch every single minute until the very end. Consequently, some will be discouraged by dangling story treads, while others will grasp them and wing it to the very end. However you respond to it, We'll Meet Again boasts splendid production values and a nostalgic atmosphere, two ingredients which make it several cuts above. Adding to the authenticity is vintage WWII footage (mostly spliced into the aerial battles) and classic music/dances, giving the miniseries a genuine sense of time and place.
Despite those benefits, We'll Meet Again never knows when to quit. The writers spend way too much time in the Air Force barracks, where the men spout superficial dialogue on uninteresting subject matter. As expected, there are numerous brawls between the airman and the British forces (usually over -- you guessed it -- women), and it quickly become tiresome. The differences between class and culture between the proper Brits and the meddling Yanks are rarely, if ever, touched upon. It makes one wonder what Henry James would have done with this material.
Oddly enough, the central relationship between the British doctor and the Air Force Major isn't as strong as one would hope. It's not the actors fault; they share an awkward chemistry, punctuated by twists best described as phony -- particularly in the scenes involving York's husband, who returns from the war crippled. The sweet union between a good-hearted Master Sergeant (Christopher Malcolm, Highlander) and a housewife (Carolyn Pickles, Harry Potter And The Deathly Hollows: Part I) with two adorable little girls is much more absorbing and unpredictable.
The acting is generally good across the board, but there are also few standouts. York, best known as Ka-Lel's mother in the Superman films, is distinguished and attractive; ditto for Shannon (who, incidentally, had a bit part in Superman II) as the gentlemanly Major. Malcolm and Pickles are both excellent, as is Julia McCarthy (Erik The Viking) as the nasty grandmother who disapproves of their relationship. The only other recognizable actor is Stuart Wilson (as Sid Davis), who later garnered substantial roles in The Mask Of Zorro and Hot Fuzz.
As Acorn Media states on the back of the set, "due to the age of these programs and the improved resolutions that DVD provides, you may notice occasional flaws in the image and audio that were beyond our ability to correct from the original materials." So, don't be surprised if you find a massive amount of grain in the outdoor scenes (filmed in 16mm, standard for the time); the video-taped, indoor sequences are much better, but also lack sharpness and sport dull colors. The mono tracks are equally underwhelming; dialogue comes through most of the time, but Acorn neglects to add subtitles or closed captioning. The sole extra is a handful of cast filmographies on the lead actors.
While it feels like it goes on forever, We'll Meet Again is free to go.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Acorn Media
* Full Frame
* Dolby Digital 1.0 Mono (English)
Running Time: 679 Minutes
Release Year: 1982
MPAA Rating: Not Rated