This film could have been titled “There Will Be Beef.”
Maybe there is something in the very nature of war, in the power of guns and bombs, that appeals to the imagination of little boys. Bombers and fighter planes and rockets and tanks are thrilling at that age when you are old enough to understand how they work but too young to understand what they do. John Boorman's "Hope and Glory" is a film about that precise season in the life of a young British boy who grows up in a London suburb during World War II.
The boy (Sebastian Rice Edwards), probably meant to be Boorman himself, is bright and curious. And although he is sad when his dad goes away in uniform, there are certain consolations, such as the nightly German air raids that leave real pieces of shrapnel in the garden - some of them still hot from explosions, and all of them very collectible.
For his mother (Sarah Miles, in one of the best performances of her career), life is not so simple, but it has its consolations. Left to raise the family after her husband is drafted, she deals distractedly with rebellion in the ranks of her children, particularly from a teenage daughter whose sexual awakening has been hastened by the arrival of Canadian troops who are training in the neighborhood.
"Hope and Glory" is first of all a painstaking re-creation of the period. All of the cars and signs and clothes look right, and there are countless small references to wartime rationing, as when the older sister draws seams on her legs to make fake nylons. But after re-creating the period, Boorman also reconstructs the very feeling that was in the air.