Ethel & Ernest: NZIFF Review
The ordinary story of two ordinary people told in an ordinary fashion renders Roger Mainwood's animation Ethel & Ernest extraordinary.
Based on Raymond "The Snowman" Briggs' graphic novel and paean to his parents, Ethel & Ernest is the evocative and charmingly animated tale of a couple and to them, is set the backdrop of life.
Tracking through social times (the rise of Hitler, the advent of TV), but using them more as background, this is the story of two people whose lives simply carry on the business of being.
Ernest, a milkman, and Ethel, a former maid (both voiced with warmth by Jim Broadbent and Brenda Blethyn) meet, fall in love and get on with the business of life without any distractions.
Thus it is with Mainwood's film that it ends up being a salutation to the common man and woman, an ode to every grandparent who has ever lived and a thoroughly charmingly old school animated treat.
It's gentle when it needs to be and sad when it's required. Certainly the end sequence is both utterly devastating and yet entirely realistic in its portrayal of the march of life.
It's because of this that Ethel & Ernest is so compellingly charming and wrapped in warmth. It's essentially like watching the life story of your grandparents writ large. And while parts of the film feel episodic in nature and it fades to black a little too often, this novella of life can't be denied.
From its gently familiar banter and the needling of a generation that weren't troubled by millennial concerns, there's a wistfulness around this which makes it feel familiar and comforting.
At its heart, Ethel & Ernest may be a gentle social document of the times Raymond Briggs' parents lived in, but it's painted with such universality and heart that it's hard to leave the cinema at the end with a dry eye.