Vacation from Marriage
December 13, 2005

I enjoy 40s war movies, but not the ones set on the battlefield. I prefer the ones that take a look at how the domestic arena was affected, such as Since You Went Away. My latest viewing, Vacation from Marriage (aka Perfect Strangers), was an interesting combination of the two.

A boring English couple — he’s some sort of banking clerk, she’s always got a drippy cold — don’t realize how unhappy they are with their complacent routine until both join separate services during World War II. After three years apart from each other, they become convinced they should divorce, because each is comparing their new, more competent selves with the spouse they remember — who no longer exists.

It’s rather a predictable story to today’s audience, competently executed but not very exciting, so I was surprised to find out that it won the 1947 Oscar for Best Story, even though it was released in at the end of 1945. It would have to have come out that late, because I can’t see an audience being very accepting of a film that says “war might be good for waking up mediocre lives and stuck-in-a-rut marriages” while the war was still actively ongoing. And come to think of it, isn’t it odd that the title for a movie about life during wartime begins with the word “vacation”?

If there’d been a sequel, it would have been interesting to see how well they went back to everyday life in their new personas.

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