Review: Ethel & Ernest

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The latest project to be based on a work by seminal children’s author Raymond Briggs, Ethel & Ernest reunites the iconic scribe with former Snowman animator turned writer/director Roger Mainwood for an adaptation of Briggs’ 1998 graphic novel of the same name. Part autobiography, part parental monument, Ethel & Ernest comes to the screen by way of the same lavish visuals which made The Snowman an instant classic, and  – coupled with an insightfully expanded screenplay by Mainwood – results in something that may well not reach such iconic status, but wholeheartedly deserves to nonetheless.

The titular Ethel & Ernest are in fact Ethel & Ernest Briggs, Raymond’s parents, whose relationship and lives together form the central story of this whimsical family drama. First meeting in 1928, the pair are soon married, only to find their attempts to begin their lives together hindered by forces ranging from infertility to the outbreak of the second world war. A look at the lives and times of the rock solid couple, what follows is a journey through the history and evolution of post-war Britain, with a look at the lives of London’s working class and family life through a tumultuous era.

Opening with an introduction from Briggs himself – and instantly acknowledging the amusement of a best-selling children’s book being based on nothing more complex than the notion that his parents loved one another – Ethel & Ernest could perhaps best be compared to taking the opening of Pixar’s Up and expanding it to an hour and a half with astonishing results. Neither particularly complex nor overtly simplistic, it’s a slice of British family life as you’ve never quite seen depicted on screen before – Briggs’ story lovingly brought to life by the visuals that suit his work so perfectly and a delightful screenplay by Mainwood.

While Mainwood deserves praise for his work on the page however, said work would be only half as impressive without a truly stellar voice cast behind it – chiefly the vocal performances of Jim Broadbent and Brenda Blethyn as the titular couple. Each audibly in awe of – yet still admirably on-point enough to bring their own take to – Briggs’ tale, there’s a future BAFTA darling in Ethel & Ernest that’s just crying out for an audience to fall in love with it. And fall in love it they will, Mainwood’s film delivering bags of heart to a story already replete with as much, as well as some charmingly rustic humour, a pair of comforting vocal leads and some of the beautiful animation you’ll see this year. You’ll laugh, you’ll cry, and you’ll be utterly won over by Ethel & Ernest, as much in the case of the characters themselves as their actual cinematic story.

Ethel & Ernest is in cinemas nationwide from Friday, October 28th; rated PG. Check out the trailer below.

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