Raymond Briggs’ ode to his parents is wonderfully typical of his work: touching, beautiful, and often heart-rending. Undoubtedly most of us first encountered his work with The Snowman, as either book or film, and Roger Mainwood’s adaptation of Ethel & Ernest will only make you fall in love with yet another tale from Briggs, if you’ve not already done so in its original format.
The film tells the simple story of the couple’s life together, from meeting to eventual parting, with Brenda Blethyn and Jim Broadbent perfectly cast to the titular roles. The story occurs mostly over the mid-section of the tumultuous twentieth century in London, charting Hitler’s rise to power, the Second World War, the welfare state, and political power changing hands from Conservative to Labour and back again. But whilst the backdrop to the story is enormous, never lost are the simplicities of family life in a house in Wimbledon Park, even down to the traffic clearing up around Sutton.
“a collection of gorgeous vignettes”
Ethel & Ernest is told through a collection of gorgeous vignettes, allowing us various snapshots into the entire span of the wonderful relationship, yet building a comprehensive narrative of all there is to behold. Animated in the style of Briggs, the film is elegant and charming, but undeniably slick. There is a clear differentiation in the drawings between things that move and things that don’t, expertly deployed from start to finish.
Obviously the credit for the story lies with its author, but in lesser hands than Mainwood’s, the picture could have failed its origin. Instead, it is a faithful adaptation that imbues the stories with voice acting that matches up to how one reads the book, and a style that captures the magic of Briggs.
I could continue to prattle on about how wonderful Ethel & Ernest is, and given the opportunity, I certainly would. People are already fed up with me talking about it prior to writing this. The picture is one of true beauty, and you’ll struggle not to enjoy it. It’ll rouse the most wonderful memories of the Ethel & Ernest in your own lives, and truly bring you happiness.
Image: Roger Mainwood