Here at The Solute, we talk about resonance a lot – emotions and perspectives in stories that carry over gender, racial, and cultural lines amongst other things. Usually, this is in the context of enjoying stories despite their coming from an alien perspective. But the flipside is that there are many, many things that are not universal. How Green Was My Valley is a film about how wonderful it is to grow up and live in a small mining town, and I cannot imagine any concept I am less constitutionally inclined to roll with. What the movie presents as comforting and beautiful, I find stifling and dry. What’s funny is that the perspective isn’t alien at all – I recognise people and behaviours in the movie from different points and places in my life – it’s just my emotional reaction is polar opposite to what it’s ‘supposed’ to be. Sitting through the interminable fucking singing scenes reminded me of sitting through people drunkenly and loudly singing along with “Khe Sanh” (a mediocre rock song that no Australian, however far and fast they run, will ever be able to flee). When Huw abandons school and the life of a scholar to go work in the mines like all the men in his life, it’s hard for me to see this as anything other than abject lunacy.
The sole point of sympathy for me is how Huw’s father is pushing him to study in the first place. His exasperation at his wife not understanding the concept of a word problem is funny, but it’s also indicative of him grasping that his children can still have value as his children without necessarily fitting a certain image, and I find him recognising his son for who he actually is to be very sympathetic. Otherwise, this feels like a procession of reasons I don’t want to live in or near my hometown. So you’re telling me that as long as I work long hours at a back-breaking life-shortening job, I can get paid just enough to eke out my existence and spend time with people I don’t find interesting and sing songs I don’t like so that I can live up to an idea that I do not believe in? Sign me the fuck up, apparently. It’s funny that I watched this because of an offhand joke in M*A*S*H (“There have been some great ox movies: ‘The Ox-Bow Incident,’ ‘A Yank at Oxford,’ ‘The Wizard of Ox,’ ‘Cow Green Was My Valley‘ – nah, that one’s cheap.”), because that also covers people trapped in limited roles and in a limited space, but it’s about how unpleasant that experience is, and I’ve always been drawn to the show for that reason.