Thursday, May 30 2024

Ethel and Ernest: a True Story
, is an excellent adaptation of the graphic novel written by Raymond Briggs (The Snowman, Father Christmas), which tells the story of a married
couple whose defining characteristic is its extraordinarily ordinary way of life. In this story there are no
superheroes with long capes nor long interplanetary voyages in which the
existence of the universe is in jeopardy, nor the presence of creatures
that threaten human existence. We simply see portrayed the growing love
between Ethel and Ernest, the parents of R. Briggs, who had the inspiration
of creating a graphic novel in their honor. 94 minutes were enough to
define what it means to be faithful in our times, to know love in time (as Pope Benedict XVI would say). She is a
conservative housekeeper of about 30 years whose passion for taking care of
the home beautifies and gives grandeur to the maternal figure; he
is a milkman with revolutionary ideas but always depicted with deep
profundity the great value of work well done and its connection to
paternity.

The story unfolds in London, beginning in the 1920’s, passing through the
turbulent and dark times of World War II, to later capture masterfully the
rapid cultural changes that occurred in the period after the war, including
those that brought with them the sexual revolution of the seventies.
Matrimonial love and the making of a comfortable home are the “background
music” of this marvellous animated adaptation. There is no lack of the
sense of nostalgia that every human being experiences on remembering the
moments of life in which we have experienced family love. The home is
presented as that paradoxical place (in the words of G. K.
Chesterton) from which we all come and to which we must always return, for
it is there that we are loved unconditionally. In contrast to the extended
liberal ideology which shows a happy life as that life full of luxuries of
all kinds, Ethel and Ernest reaffirms that the sweetness of home
is found in the the most ordinary daily details of love. It could well be
said that this couple embodies perfectly the affirmation that Josemaría
Escrivá made about having a meaningful life: “To be happy, what you need is
not an easy life but a heart which is in love” (Furrow, 795).

Ethel and Ernest will be remembered by many as an animated film that inserts
“intravenously” a strong dose of truth in the middle of the
superficiality of the contemporary world, now so distanced from a world
in which beauty and austerity and the enjoyment of all that unites
human beings were exalted. In this sense, the figure of the
housewife is moving. Without false embarrassment, nor complexes of inferiority,
Ethel is a sensible woman who knows how to love. Her image respectfully
underscores the domestic work of a woman. She is a personal affront for
those who look down on the care of the home or look at it unjustly as
something of little importance. But it is not so, for knowing how to
take care of a loved one through domestic life is an indispensable task
for living happily, even in an era as technologized as ours. Denying
maternity and its connection with domestic work is undoubtedly a
symptom of social and spiritual decadence. A humanity that lacks the
feminine figure, and therefore the maternal, is a humanity that is
dying.

For his part, the image of Ernest reflects the sacrifices that a father
must make to take care of his primary heritage: his wife and his children. The frustrations that work life brings
with it and the professional desires that every man takes upon his
shoulders are the main theme of his human drama. Some pragmatic world-views
may look at Ernest as a conformist, incapable of directing a company or
starting a business successfully. Nevertheless, the maturity that is
portrayed in his difficult progress tells us the contrary. At every moment,
Ernest puts passion into his duties as a working father, builder and
protector of a home, with great intelligence and good sense, but above all,
he shows his love for his wife and his child. His participation in the home
and in the education of their children makes out of him almost a species in
danger of extinction. A certain kind of radical feminism has wanted to
obscure this reality that shines in Ernest’s character, a radical feminism
that describes the male as the evil oppressor of women, who keeps all
professional work outside the home and all social development for himself.
It seems to me that this type of feminism is an authentic cancer for
society, that has extended itself rapidly in Western culture and has come
to penetrate in our consciences, creating a hostile climate for the raising
of children, matrimonial love and a happy home life. Ethel and Ernest are a firm testimony that family and the raising
of children are a priority that cannot be put off. The music of Carl Davis
help make this animated picture into an authentic animated “classic” of
films with a high educational content. Whoever wants to understand the
family dynamic in its most genuine and ordinary expression cannot miss
watching this great work.

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