Glorious 39

Now, I love watching films set around WW2, or more specifically, those set on the Home Front (I’m not a massive fan of lots of gory battle scenes, being somewhat squeamish). So when Stephen Poliakoff’s 2009 film, Glorious 39 aired on BBC2 last night, I was eager to see it.

The film is set in the seemingly idyllic English countryside of 1939, starting just prior to the beginning of World War 2. Young actress Anne Keyes (Romola Garai), adopted daughter of Tory MP Sir Alexander Keyes, inadvertently stumbles across a highly secret and highly dangerous conspiracy. This conspiracy is led by men who want to avoid war altogether, and failing that, want to make peace negotiations with Hitler. Anyone who opposes their ideals quickly ends up dead, including young MP Hector, played by David Tennant.Throughout the course of the film, Anne discovers that all of her family is involved, and the net of the conspiracy slowly closes in on her…

I felt that this film was a little too predictable at important moments to build up sufficient tension and make a big impact. for example, when Anne walked through the animal shed, past all the dead pets in sacks (which was the creepiest thing in the whole film) it was rather obvious that she was about to discover the dead body of her lover. As for Anne’s seemingly-nice-guy father (Bill Nighy): his nonchalance about Anne’s discovery of the gramophone records and her subsequent findings never felt quite right, and of course, we soon discovered why.

(Romola Garai as Anne, Eddie Redmayne as Ralph and Juno Temple as Celia)

However, where the film did successfully build tension for me was near the end, where Anne’s family were keeping her a prisoner in a dingy room of her aunt’s house. She became increasingly terrified as she suspected that she was being drugged, poisoned and lied to, while her father laughed off her fears. I found myself rooting for Anne – hoping that she’d manage to escape. And escape she did, due to her mother unexpectedly leaving the door unlocked for her whilst the rest of the family was out. The omnipresent Walter met her and brought her to the park, where her family were frolicking happily with various ambassadors’ children. On seeing her, instead of being furious that she had somehow managed to flee their clutches, they laughed and smiled, happily telling her to rejoin them. Her father even went as far as holding out his arms in welcome. It was as if they were trying to convince her, once and for all, that everything she had discovered and believed was all in her head and if she came back to them and stopped trying to fight against them, they could all be one big happy family once again. Thankfully, Anne ran away from them and apparently managed to get to Canada with no money, wearing only a slip and a pair of men’s shoes.

Ok, here’s a pros and cons list:


  • The acting was very well done, and Romola Garai as Anne gets particular commendation.
  • The costumes were stunning. I always pay a lot of attention to the costumes in period films and the ones in Glorious 39 did not disappoint.
  • The concept of this film was good – it gave a different angle to the war and a bleaker view of the workings behind it.


  • I didn’t like the fact that those involved with the conspiracy – the assassins etc – received no kind of retribution for their actions. It didn’t feel as if anything was really solved by the end – there was no real resolution apart from the fact that Anne got her freedom.
  • Some of it, as I said before, was far too predictable, so it could have been plotted/scripted slightly better.

Overall = 3/5

P.S: Whose children were Walter and baby Oliver? Does anyone know? I couldn’t work out whose they were…


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