An English Village at War
It's early August, 1914 and a small village community are preparing for their annual cricket match against a rival village. For the men it is top of their agenda, far more important than talk of war and in some cases a holiday with their wife. But a few days after the game it is time to say goodbye to 3 of their brave young men who have signed up to fight for their country although having read the news and seen the films no one thinks that there really will be a war or those who have left will see action. But as the news and films keep on protecting the public the war is really happening and the village is rocked by deaths, missing loved ones, others coming back having lost limbs with some of those affected by the war never really recovering from the truth.
"1914 All Out" is an engrossing but remarkably low key production which reminded me of the sort of programs which once in a blue moon would be shown during lessons to give us an idea of how life was. The thing is that if you were to show "1914 All Out" to a child they may miss out on the numerous subtle aspects of what is being shown to us whilst amused by this presentation of a village community who would cut the wheat by hand using scythes.
Now the thing about "1914 All Out" and what makes it so good is in the little details. When the villagers are getting ready for their annual cricket match war was not real to them and it remained not real to them as the news reports kept the truth from everyone. So when things start to happen to their loved ones suddenly the war becomes very real with what seems like cliche aspects such as a young wife learning her husband has been killed in action to another wife refusing to believe her husband who is MIA wont return. But then you get the depth, the shift in demeanour of the villagers as they start to grow tired of the lies being shown to them in films and we see how a father becomes depressed following the death of his son.
Now I wouldn't say that "1914 All Out" is the most realistic representation of how things were as to cram everything in to just 80 minutes it becomes episodic and jumps in periods but it still works. The way we meet the characters, the initial humour and the shift to a village hurt by war keeps you engrossed. Surprisingly though we don't get much character depth in fact I don't remember really hearing many names mentioned yet it works. Part of that is down to the performances with David Hargreaves in particular standing out with a pitch perfect performance.
What this all boils down to is that "1914 All Out" is a fascinating drama about a village and how WWI affected its residence with this perfect blend of humour and drama to draw us in but hit us with the reality of war without ever becoming graphic.