John Boorman's masterful followup to his 1987 semi-autobiographical Hope and Glory. Then, the story was about a boy growing up in the London Blitz. Now it's 1952, and young Bill Rohan is a conscript in the Army, teaching typing on a domestic base. For the first 20 minutes or so, you may wonder why you are watching; so much of the story trods well-worn paths. Randy, awkward English boys, falling in love and looking for action in the days before the sexual revolution. Uptight British officers exercising their petty tyrannies of discipline and order in meaningless situations. The clash of generations as the Stiff Upper Lip survivors of the Second World War gaze in horror upon the Unruly, Unhappy Youth who stand to inherit the land. But as the story gets going — the plot orbits around a stolen clock and a mysterious girl, but the plot is hardly the point — you may realize how a careful director can take commonplace situations and make them so personal that they become fresh again. How smart actors — including an unnerving Caleb Landry Jones as Rohan's bunkmate — can make stock characters surprising without making them unrecognizable. In short, how expert presentation can draw you into a world, immerse you in the lives of others, and make you sorry to leave when it's over. (2014) — Matthew Lickona
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