WWII saw some of the worst atrocities that mankind would ever witness, and the Allies suffered many setbacks before the White Cliffs of Dover and the sandy beaches along the seas were truly free. And whilst they were at the bidding of their respective motherlands, officers and men alike would remember lovers and wives, carry faded pictures of their sweethearts, drown their sorrows in wine and rekindle romance in the arms of exotic foreign beauties.
Casablanca was undoubtedly the most memorable movie in this genre, A Farewell to Arms, sourced from Hemingway’s book of the same name starring Rock Hudson was also a real tear jerker. And then there is Reunion at Fairborough (1985), directed by Herbert Wise and written by Albert Ruben, this is the story of Carl Hostrup (played by Robert Mitchum). Carl is a WWII veteran, who flew with an Air Force Squadron as Captain of a fleet. He is currently leading an apparently cushy life as a high level executive, however, beneath the surface of success are the remnants of a bitter divorce and unrequited love.
Misery and loneliness drive him almost to the point of suicide, when fortunately, his macabre decision is stalled by a phone call from his old crew mate from the War Nathan Barsky (Barry Morse), who is now a professor and has organized a reunion for the 8th Air Force, 323rd Bombardment Squadron, in Fairborough, England where the old base was.
Carl is hesitant to go, but eventually agrees, and when they reach Fairborough, memories of an old love, from forty years ago. Sally Wells Grant (Deborah Kerr) is a shopkeeper is not pleasantly surprised to find Carl at her doorstep, memories of yesteryear flood her mind, and she is vocally bitter about how she was left by him, and how it has taken her years to become emotionally stronger, despite the heartbreak.
Sally also confronts Carl with two shockers - one, he is the father of a daughter, and two - he is grandfather to a granddaughter. Stunned by the revelations, and hurt by her caginess, Carl decides to make headway with the youngest woman in his life: Sheila, his grandchild. The film follows the relationships of the three, Sally and Carl light up the moments with their easy charm and panache, so readily on hand for older stars. Sheila is the young rebel with a cause, whom Carl has to tame.
Mitchum and Kerr deliver one of the most touching performances, her quiet dismissal in the face of reality - at conflict with the love she has secretly harbored for Carl - are easily portrayed by Kerr, whereas the American businessman with nothing–to-look-forward-to-in-life war veteran Carl is convincingly real.
A poignant, emotive and sweet movie – about how love can change lives, and remains alive no matter what the distances in space or time.