The similarly titled labor of love that was Raymond Briggs’ 1999 graphic novel about the warmly rendered lives of his parents, takes on a beautifully animated life of its own in “Ethel & Ernest.”
Peppered with knowing insights surrounding the British working class, the film creates a richly etched portrait of maid Ethel (Brenda Blethyn) and milkman Ernest (Jim Broadbent), from their touching late 1920s courtship to their deaths, within mere months of each other, in 1971.
It proved to be a relationship that played out against a period of political and social upheaval, especially a war that forces them to evacuate their only child, 5-year-old Raymond, to the Dorset countryside when Hitler’s bombers hit too close to home, also necessitating the construction of a corrugated metal bomb shelter in their tiny London yard.
While time inevitably marches on, director Roger Mainwood has a splendid constant at his disposal in the pitch-perfect voice performances of Blethyn and Broadbent, who inhabit their hand-drawn characters with a vivid, fully-dimensional authenticity.
Providing effective backup is a gentle, piano-forward score by veteran composer Carl Davis (“The French Lieutenant’s Woman”) and a plaintive original song by Paul McCartney.
“There was nothing extraordinary about my mum and dad,” narrates Briggs during a brief live-action introductory sequence. Maybe so, but their unassuming story speaks volumes about the extraordinary resilience of the human spirit.
‘Ethel & Ernest’
Running time: 1 hour, 34 minutes
Playing: Landmark NuArt Theatre, West L.A.