This is a wonderfully evocative and well observed animated feature that plays like a cartoon equivalent of Noel Coward’s This Happy Breed. Adapted from Raymond Briggs’ graphic novel, it tells the story of Briggs’ parents Ethel and Ernest over a 50-year period from the late 1920s onward […]. The film deals with often seismic events in British social history from the very down-to-earth perspective of Ethel (voiced by Brenda Blethyn), a former lady’s maid, and her milkman husband Ernest (Jim Broadbent).
The film touches on some dark subject matter – neighbours whose sons have been killed in the war, the schizophrenia of Raymond’s girlfriend – but does so with a very British restraint. It is also quietly satirical about the British class system and changing social attitudes – but it never patronises its characters.
Ethel and Ernest are undemonstrative sorts who accept misfortune with stoicism and don’t show off about it when luck is on their side. The animation is as unfussy as they are. There are no Pixar-like flights of fantasy here and the faces of the characters remain unchanging whatever confronts them. Even so, in its own understated way, the film is deeply moving.
Geoffrey Macnab, The Independent