make way for tomorrow
dir. leo mccarey
Don’t judge a film by its poster (or by the upsetting lack of available gifs); Make Way for Tomorrow is, by all accounts, a nearly perfect film. It’s funny, it’s real, and it’s utterly heartbreaking; Orson Welles famously said it “could make a stone cry”, and I came pretty damn close.
Bark and Lucy, the elderly protagonists, find themselves in financial trouble, forcing them to live, separately, with their children. Distanced for the first time after fifty years of marriage, the couple find themselves struggling greatly, both due to their being apart and to their new surroundings.
“I just want to tell you, it’s been lovely. Every bit of it. The whole fifty years.”
In terms of film form, the film is magnificent. The acting is superb, the dialogue and banter sharp and believable. It’s a character study at heart, and you grow to feel like a part of the family, understanding their history and why it leads them to behave as they do.
It’s by far one of the most beautiful family dramas I’ve ever seen, and among the best in the “sad couple” genre, a la Scenes from a Marriage and Blue Valentine. There isn’t a real antagonist in the film aside from the situation itself; the children make mistakes in their care, and could certainly do more for their parents, but they’re human. Bark and Lucy aren’t ashamed; they work with what they have, knowing they’ve lived a beautiful life together, and the viewer’s life is enriched for having shared a piece of it with them.
It’s a lost gem from the Depression era, and one that can’t be lost again. The film, like Bark and Lucy, deserve to be treated better. Find it, watch it, and take them with you.
Criterion Spine #505