Make Way For Tomorrow (Criterion Blu-ray Review)

MAKE WAY FOR TOMORROW (directed by Leo McCarey) is the latest release from Criterion (#505). After viewing this film I could only think of one word over and over that describes it best.

Devastating.

I couldn't believe that a film from 1937 is still current and so relatable.

THE FILM

Here's Criterion's official synopsis:

Make Way for Tomorrow, by Leo McCarey, is one of the great unsung Hollywood masterpieces, an enormously moving Depression-era depiction of the frustrations of family, aging, and the generation gap. Beulah Bondi and Victor Moore headline a cast of incomparable character actors, starring as an elderly couple who must move in with their grown children after the bank takes their home, yet end up separated and subject to their offspring’s selfish whims. An inspiration for Yasujiro Ozu’s Tokyo Story, this is among American cinema’s purest tearjerkers, all the way to its unflinching ending, which McCarey refused to change despite studio pressure.

Thankfully my folks aren't at the age where I may have to deal with something similar. However, I'm even getting older now where these thoughts do cross my mind.

McCarey achieves some very masterful sequences. Particular of note is a sequence featuring a "private" phone conversation that is overheard by party guests. It first starts out as what seems to be a comedic scene, however by the end there is a emotional resonance to it that is totally unexpected. And this is what happens throughout the film.

Upon watching the Criterion special features, I discovered the two leads playing the elderly parents (Beulah Bondi and Victor Moore) played about 20 years older than they really were. I was fooled. 

Performances all around are strong (though some can be a bit dated by the time). Again, it may very well be that the subject matter is close to me now so I really felt everyone's pathos. Some characters are selfish, others are not. And they're all behaviors I could relate to.

The ending of the film (don't worry I won't spoil it) was not a total tearjerker as described. I wasn't bawling. However I did sit there in silence for a good five minutes. Contemplating life...and death.

This is a mark of a good movie. Leaving you sitting there after the credits.

Thinking.

VIDEO/AUDIO

  • United States
  • 1937
  • 92 minutes
  • Black and White
  • 1.33:1
  • English

I'm sure Criterion took the utmost care in its HD restoration. However the image looks a bit grainy to me. It was distracting, but they definitely were noticeable. Sound was perfect.

BONUS FEATURES

  • High-definition digital restoration, with uncompressed monaural soundtrack
  • Tomorrow, Yesterday, and Today, a 2009 interview with filmmaker Peter Bogdanovich about the career of director Leo McCarey and Make Way for Tomorrow - this was a great, insightful treat on the filmmaker's career
  • Interview from 2009 with critic Gary Giddins about McCarey’s artistry and the political and social context of the film - another wonderful interview recalling McCarey's career. Well worth a watch
  • PLUS: A booklet feauring essays by critic Tag Gallagher and filmmaker Bertrand Tavernier, as well as an excerpt from film scholar Robin Wood’s 1998 piece “Leo McCarey and ‘Family Values’

BOTTOM LINE

I'd never heard of this film prior to Criterion's release. And I didn't even know Leo McCarey directed some of the more well-known classics (AN AFFAIR TO REMEMBER, THE AWFUL TRUTH, THE BELLS OF ST. MARY'S) that I'd grown up with. So this film was definitely a pleasant surprise for not only its relevant subject matter, but also for its brave ending that was definitely unorthodox for its time.

If you enjoy classics centered around family relationships, then add this one to your shelf!

Viva physical media.