Blu-Ray Review: Make Way For Tomorrow (Criterion) | Under the Radar - Music Magazine
Thursday, February 20th, 2020  

Make Way For Tomorrow

Studio: Criterion

May 12, 2015 Web Exclusive Bookmark and Share

Heart-wrenching isn’t quite the right term to describe Leo McCarey’s Make Way For Tomorrow. Heartbreaking doesn’t go far enough, either. Perhaps “heart-wrecking” is severe enough to convey how sad this 1937 melodrama remains from start to finish. Victor Moore and Beulah Bondi (a Frank Capra regular) star as Bark and Lucy Cooper, the elderly parents to five adult children. They’re split up for the first time in their fifty-year marriage when the bank forecloses on their home. Lucy is sent to live with their son, his wife, and her granddaughter in their city apartment; Bark moves in with his daughter in the country, more than 300 miles away. The children promise to reunite their parents once they find them a place to live—but, as the months roll on, the prospect of the two living out their final years together appears less and less likely. In the meantime, the elderly parents are made to feel like burdens in their children’s homes, blamed for numerous inconveniences, and suffer both intentional and unintentional abuse at the hands of their offspring.

If that sounds hard to watch, that’s because it is. Many scenes in Make Way For Tomorrow are very uncomfortable to sit through, primarily because the viewer cares more about the old couple’s wellbeing than their grown kids seem to. (The film does one Hell of a job hammering home it’s “Honor Thy Father and Mother” message.) What prevents the movie from being totally unendurable is the tenderness in the lead performances. Bondi—who, surpringly, was only in her late 40s at the time this was shot—is touching as the diminutive grandmother worried at the thought of inconveniencing her progeny. Moore is a little less sympathetic as her cantankerous husband, but his portrayal is perhaps more honest. (Most of us have known a cranky old man just like him.) Together, this mismatched pair rings wonderfully true. In the rare scenes when we see them side by side, they’re radiant with joy—which makes their separation that much more painful for the viewer.

The presentation on Criterion’s Blu-ray re-release is very good for a film that’s almost 80 years old. With age taken into consideration it’s easy to look past the grain, and the audio is crisp and clear—both the dialogue and score are free of the distortion that can be heard in many of the early talkie era’s less cared-for movies. The two bonus documentaries provide generous context for both the film and McCarey’s career—prior to this, the director had helmed many famous comedies, including the Marx Brothers’ Duck Soup and films starring Harold Lloyd and Laurel & Hardy. A thick booklet includes three essays (one by filmmaker Bertrand Tavernier) for further information. All in all, it’s great accompaniment for a highly recommended film. Be ready to cry for a bit.

Author rating: 7.5/10

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