Johnny and Mary, after knowing each other less than a day, get married. They’re madly in love and become perfect for each other, but this match made in heaven has problems of its own as Johnny tries desperately to find a job during the Great Depression.
The story centers around Johnny and begins at his birth on July 4, 1900 and follows his life until he meets Mary. They fall in love, get married, have kids. Johnny has trouble with work, then quits after a tragedy. This tells a story that is close to the people of the time period, those that struggled through the Depression, or lost a loved one in a tragedy, can relate to Mary and Johnny.
This movie was strange for me, but only because I started having familiar feelings when it changed suddenly from a comedic scene to a tragic one, and then back again, throughout the movie. Feelings I couldn’t quite place for a moment because I didn’t expect to see it in a film made this early. This film is Oscar-bait, not on purpose though. The first Oscars weren’t until a year later so how could they have known? But that’s exactly what it is.
Now, Oscar-bait is a term that gets thrown around a lot and probably means different things to different people. To me, it’s any movie that has a story that is so character driven it feels it doesn’t need an actual plot. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with this, per se, but I definitely recognize the formula when I see it. It’s a film that centers around one person. Sometimes two, though one is always more main than the other, like in this movie. And it’s about the person’s life, therefore the tone of the movie changes just as much and as randomly as the person’s life does. When done well, this type of movie makes you feel for the character just as close as you would had they been your best friend for many years and provide lessons to its audience about what it takes to truly live in this world. When handled poorly, they feel disjointed and at points nonsensical as things randomly seem to change and the only message to be obtained is “sometimes things happen for no reason at all.” That’s only in the most extreme cases though.
Here, the film does a decent job of telling us Johnny’s story. Though there are a few scenes that feel like they only happen because “life is random.” I guess being that this movie is super ahead of its time, and the Oscars weren’t even a thing yet. It’s just one director doing his thing without trying to win anything in the process. Though I may not like it when things happen for no reason on screen, I can applaud this film for its originality for its time.
Why you should watch it before you die: If you like character-driven stories, and don’t mind silent flicks, I’d recommend it quite a bit. Otherwise, I’d probably say you can pass on this.
+5: Decent acting, story is just okay
+1: Very good music