AN ANGEL FOR MAY
UK, 2002, 97 minutes, Colour.
Tom Wilkinson, Geraldine James, Matthew Beard, Charlotte Wakefield, Anna Massey, Angelina Ball, Dora Bryan.
Directed by Harvey Cokeliss.
Some audiences may not respond well to the fact of having angel in the title. There is more than a touch of sentiment, as there is in this film, and some moments which are rather twee.
While some of the sequences are set in Yorkshire in World War II, the 1940s, the rest of the film is set half a century later in the same village. The film also involves time travel so that the young hero of the film, Tom, Matthew Beard, is somewhat cantankerous with his separated mother, not wanting her to marry her boyfriend, with his moods, but is also much more genial when he finds himself in the middle of raids in the 1940s.
Most of the interesting action takes place in the past, Tom finding his self at a farm, managed by Tom Wilkinson, preparing to marry his housekeeper, Geraldine James, but encountering a young girl, May, Charlotte Wakefield, who has been rescued from bombed buildings. Tom and May become friends, roam the countryside and experience German planes flying over and bombs falling, go into the town where they are pursued by the police, especially after Tom takes clothes from a clothesline hoping to disguise himself and get back home.
He has been absent for three days and nobody believes his story about going back into the past. He meets an old bag lady, played by Anna Massey, who seems connected to the past. He discovers that the housekeeper is still alive in a nursing home and goes to visit her, hearing the story of May, the bomb on the farm. His effort is to go back to the past and to save May – which he does, not in the way expected.
At the cemetery in the present, he discovers gravestones – and an older woman, again played by Anna Massey, coming to visit the grave of her friend who had survived the bombing, as had she. She had moved to live in the United States.
With the focus on the children, this is a film which can be helpful to younger audiences as well as to family audiences.
1. A pleasing film for children, family, adults? Realism and fantasy?
2. The contemporary setting, a Yorkshire town, home, school, countryside? The comparison with the 1940s Yorkshire setting, the countryside, the farm, the town, the bombing raids, the destruction, the streets? The musical score?
3. The title, the folks on May, the role of Tom as an angel for her?
4. The prologue, the war, the bombardments, the damage, the Army nurse, hearing the sounds, the rats, uncovering May and rescuing her?
5. The present, Tom, his age, his relationship with his mother, his father absent, preparations for the divorce? His surliness with his mother? His reaction to Bob? Opposing the marriage, moodiness? Running out of the house, seeing the dog, taking shelter, the chimney?
6. Transported into the 1940s, the farm, Sam wondering who he was, the encounter with may, Sam’s daughter, with Susan? His being bewildered?
7. The experience of the 1940s, the damage, his taking the clothes from the clothesline of being pursued, may rescuing him and tripping the policeman? Back at the farm, becoming friends, sharing the meal? The ham?
8. May’s story, to be taken away, wildness and fear, Tom calming her down, her eating properly, at ease with the family? In the country, the success of bombs and diving into the pit? The dress, going away, the fears that she would not return, the return and everybody happy?
9. Tom, wanting to leave, Sam’s farewell, with Tess the dog?
10. Back home, everybody searching for him, missing three days, his mother’s anxiety, Bob and offering confidentiality? The police? People not believing him? The counsellor and CE had an imagination? Going back to school, the jibes from the other children?
11. Confrontation with his mother, wanting to go out, her locking the door? His asking her to trust him? His not being worried about the marriage even though his mother and Bob were prepared to sacrifice?
12. Finding that Susan was in the old people’s home, his visit, her memories, giving the information about the bomb?
13. Going back, the encounter with Rosie, the vagrant woman, recognition, that she was May?
14. His return, finding Sam did as he had seen the headstone in the cemetery? Going to the town, finding May? Trying to persuade her to come with him? The lightning? Who wanting to see her friend, going to the hospital, using his inhaler – which the boys on his previous visit had broken? Thinking it was a German bomb and he was a spy?
15. His return, going to the cemetery, encountering may, May, living in the US, her husband, her memories? Her friend living on? His return and the scenario changing?
16. With his mother, with Bob, happy future?