How Green Was My Valley

Movie review by
Andrea Beach, Common Sense Media
How Green Was My Valley Movie Poster Image
Sentimental classic still tugs at the heartstrings.
  • NR
  • 1941
  • 118 minutes

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The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Positive Messages

Shows the importance of family, faith, and community as sources of strength and support in difficult times. Loved ones, places, people, even the taste of our favorite foods, live on forever in our hearts and memories. Individually we're weak, but when we band together, we're strong. Going to church and worshipping only because you're afraid of eternal punishment leads to hypocrisy and injustice. Direct, clear, and careful thinking is a form of prayer and will lead you to do what's right. If you have faith and believe you can do something, you will do it.

Positive Role Models & Representations

The large, tight-knit Morgan family are all good role models for loyalty, hard work, and devotion. Mr. Gruffydd, the pastor, leads by example in following the golden rule, showing compassion and empathy, and sacrificing himself for another's best interest. Young Huw is a strong role model for working hard, doing what's right, never giving up, fighting his own battles, and being a devoted, loving son, and brother.

Violence

A teacher bullies a student verbally and savagely beats him on the back with a cane. The beating itself is just off screen. No injuries or gore are shown but a character mentions the boy was cut to the bone. Two men give a class a boxing demonstration on the teacher, played for comedy, in which they hit and knock him out in retaliation. A boy is beat up by a bully at school, learns to box, and fights him again. Fist fights with punches being thrown and heard landing. Injuries, including bleeding cuts and noses, are briefly shown. A rock is thrown through the window of a house. A boy gets a playful smack on the bottom from his older sister. Scary, tense scenes when a boy and his mother fall through the ice in a river, and when a mine caves in, trapping the father inside. Important characters die.

Sex

A major subplot is about two characters in love; they kiss once. An unwed mother is called out and humiliated in church. 

Language

"Damn," "hell."

Consumerism
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Men frequently smoke pipes. One party scene takes place in a smoke-filled room. A child brings a pipe and tobacco to his father in the bathtub, the mother dumps water over the father's head after it's lit. A few scenes show drunken behavior played for comedy or at celebrations like weddings. Once when he's upset, the father leaves the house saying that he's going to get drunk.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that How Green Was My Valley is a gentle, quiet, black-and-white 1941 masterpiece directed by John Ford. It's about a large family of Welsh miners at the turn of the last century, and it touches on many of life's ups and downs. Lots of positive messages and strong themes about family and community bonds, and about how people and places change over good times and bad. A few fist fights show bloodied faces afterward. A cruel teacher verbally bullies and beats a child with a cane. Some scariness from falling through ice and a mine collapse. Important characters die. The content is fine for all ages, but it's not likely to hold the interest of kids younger than tweens.

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What's the story?

Huw Morgan (Roddy McDowall) looks back on growing up in the late 1800s and early 1900s, remembering HOW GREEN WAS MY VALLEY before the years of mining coal took its toll on his family and his small town in Wales. Despite ups and downs, heartbreak and happiness, hardship and plenty, strong family ties see the Morgans through. Times change, loved ones sail to distant shores, and a young boy grows up treasuring the memories of the people and places dear to his heart.

Is it any good?

Legendary director John Ford's quiet, loving study of character, family, and community is a moving portrait of a place in time and the people who lived it. Ford's been widely reported as saying that How Green Was My Valley was his favorite film, and it's easy to see why. Wonderful performances from the large cast of colorful characters, a hauntingly beautiful landscape artfully photographed in black and white, and a moving, sentimental story with just the right touch of bittersweet make it a great family choice.

As wonderful as it is, it's not likely to attract or hold the interest of the younger kids. The slow, quiet pace, lots of singing (in Welsh), and adult issues like hardship, unionizing, loveless marriage, and religious hypocrisy will go over their heads. Tweens and up will enjoy seeing the story through young Huw (sounds like "Hugh") Morgan's eyes. Don't be surprised if you, and they, need to reach for a tissue a time or two as the bonds of family, faith, and community are tested and proven strong.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about ways How Green Was My Valley shows family togetherness. What keeps the Morgans going through tough times?

  • How has the way schools and families handle bullying changed since the time of the movie? Did Huw handle it correctly? What would you have done?

  • What makes a movie a "classic"? Have you seen any current or recent movies that you think will become classics?

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