Friday, February 19, 2016

Movie Review // The Magic of Ordinary Days with Keri Russell, Skeet Ulrich, and Mare Winningham ~ Part I

This movie. Somehow I always seem to forget just how much I love it. And then I rewatch it and solidly remember all over again. Sweet and straightforward and lovely and deep, it gets more richly beautiful each and every time.

(Also, this post is seriously screen cap heavy. Just so you know. Consider ye’ve been duly forewarned. ;))

The official summary’s not tremendously great and (to avoid spoilers and since the plotline itself is fairly simple) I won’t go into a lot of detail, but here’s for my own short summary: During WWII, cultured, well-educated Livy Dunn becomes pregnant out of wedlock and then engages (at the behest of her father) in an arranged marriage with Ray Singleton, a young farmer in a small rural community. The conflict then unfolds around their growing relationship -- slowly developing on a truly daily level; entwined too with the lives of two dear friends of Livy's and also a young POW.

Just how skillfully that’s all woven together and comes flashing out in the climax never fails to surprise and delight me. Incidentally, I’ve also seen the extras and they’re pretty good. It’s always nice when they interview the actors on set in costume; and the major actors all seemed fairly type cast, too -- which is fun.

Before we get into some of the reasons I love it, given the premise (and because it’s something I personally would have really liked having before I first watched it), I’ll note exactly what it does and does not have content-wise so you get an idea of how they handled all those potentially iffy things. 

First off, there are no dressing scenes, no ‘bedroom’ scenes, and NO flashbacks (as in flashing back in any way to the father of the baby). Once Livy’s at the farmhouse, it shows her waking up in her room a couple times wearing a very modest, sleeveless nightgown. It shows when she goes into labor (i.e. there’s evidence of her water breaking) and there are several gentle kisses. That’s it. :)

The dresses etc. are gorgeous, but I have so many things to highlight on that front that I’m splitting all my thoughts on it into another post, which should be coming along shortly! (Edit: you can now see Part II here. :))

With a relaxed and leisurely pace, the storytelling throughout is incredibly understated. It always amazes me how so many of the plot points seem vaguely immaterial (i.e. like the installation of the telephone) and then all of a sudden -- like the pieces of a jigsaw puzzle -- every last thing is smoothly and perfectly in place, somersaulting into the pounding intensity of the climax. 

Speaking of the climax itself, Livy is so smart there! (No extreme spoilers), but I’m always agog at how fast she thinks on her feet – managing all the pressure and emotions involved and figuring a way out of the mess without leaving a single trail anywhere. It's brilliant, I tell you.

And I love how the whole running theme of learning how to be a true and loyal friend comes flashing out -- pulling everything powerfully and perfectly together.

Along with this, the contrast between the two sets of sisters is excellent: with one older sister blithely enticing her younger sister to live for herself, look out for herself, etc. -- and then another older sister wisely foreseeing calamity yet still determined to stand by her sister, seeing her all the way through to the end.

The second pair of sisters here. Flory (the younger sister in pink) is sweet and fun and bubbly.

While Rose is so lovely and caring and straightforward and gracious.

(Rose actually reminds me a LOT of one of my very dearest friends. :) Except my friend’s the married one with a houseful of beautiful and very busy small children. ;))

I also love how Livy’s whole transformation is distilled down in her treatment of Franklin -- with her initial hesitancy and following disgust all the way to caring for him and finally eagerly hauling him round as a safeguard.

As to the dialogue…

Often running with tension, it’s straightforward and full to brimming with exactly the things you would actually say.

Ordinary, everyday words speaking of raw hurt and pain. Words strong and sometimes fumbling, dealing with the daily things like seedtime and harvest that are part of life and keep carrying on regardless. Plain words speaking of life, with all its brokenness and wavering hesitation. Plain, strong words speaking not ‘of’ life, but life itself -- with a love that’s willing to step into the trenches and get more than its hands dirty. 

Livy’s fears, her agonized longings, her uncertainty, her frustration, and then her final response to love are all poignantly and vividly rendered.

Ray’s gentleness is often highlighted (which is absolutely as it should be), but what always strikes me, too, is how just he is. 

Just in the Biblical sense.

He does what Joseph did (with the hefty and important exception, of course, that Mary wasn’t really in the position she seemed to be in, and also Mary and Joseph did actually seem to love and desire each other, but -- you know -- from the point of view of gossiping society at large). 

Joseph was given divine revelation and Ray decides to marry because he felt it might be God’s will; upright men stepping into a sweltering situation that was none of their doing. And what’s more, assuming all the potential blame, shouldering it. Which could gall a man’s pride. But it’s done without hesitation. 

He covers her completely. It’s love. Real and tangible and rock hard and solid. 

And in stepping in -- in winning her, wooing her in spite of herself -- he also, of necessity, opens himself up to vulnerability -- to hurt. 

But he does it anyway. 

And he is hurt. And in that hurt, finally opens her heart and eyes. 

It's absolutely beautiful and amazing.

For me, this movie took a while (quite a while), but -- still undeterred and very much in keeping with its character -- it quietly and insistently worked its way into my very tip top favorites. It’s one of those stories that gets into you. And I love it to utter bits and pieces!!

Tell me! Have you seen this movie and what did you think?

(Reviewed for Rose’s 40’s Week and Miss Laurie’s Period Drama Challenge 2016.)


  1. Replies
    1. Naomi,

  2. Wow, thanks for sharing. Looks and sounds so good. I appreciate this review and your way of doing it.

    1. OldFashionGirl,
      You're welcome! I'm so glad you enjoyed it and found it helpful! :)

  3. Aaaaahhhhh!!!

    This really is one of those movies that just gets under your skin in the most delightful way. I, too, always forget just how magical (see what I did there? ;)) it really is, and then I watch it again and it's like my very favoritest of favorite movies for the following 24 hours :D

    Beautiful review! Just…just yes. You captured it so perfectly, really. I can't even say anything more :) Looking forward to part 2!

    1. Olivia,
      *grins* Yes yes and YES!! Heehee. I did notice how you worked that magical word in. And yes, that's like my story exactly when it comes to watching/remembering it. :)

      I'm sooooo happy you enjoyed it!! ;D

  4. Beautiful review, Heidi :-) I love all the screencaps! And that last photo with the baby is SOOOOOOOOOOO CUTE OH MY WORD. I love babies :-)

    1. jessica,
      Thank you and I'm so glad you enjoyed all the pictures! :) Isn't that last one just too adorable?!? And yes, babies are scrumptious. I got to snuggle a friend's baby for a good bit yesterday which made me Very Happy. ;)

  5. Yesm I loved this movie when I watched it with friends and then showed it to my mom, and she cried and cried. I need to buy this. Ray is so sweet.

    1. Livia Rachelle,
      I'm so glad your mom enjoys it, too! And yes, he's so truly caring.

  6. I LOVE THIS MOVIE. And your review was very lovely. :-)

    Wow, she wasn't kidding when she said this was going to be screencap-heavy. ;-P Haha.

    1. Emma Jane,
      Ooh, I'm delighted to hear it!! I was wondering if you'd seen it. ;D

      Yes, it's kinda one of those films where it's super easy to get good ones and... well, you know how it goes. ;)

  7. This looks like an absolutely gorgeous and wonderful movie!!

  8. Great review, Heidi! And I loooooooooove that corded sweater of Livy's. :)

    1. Rosie,
      Thank you! And yes, that's one of my favorites, too... I love the 'soft yet sturdy' feel it brings in. :)

  9. Beautiful review, Heidi! I was so glad to see another example of how to review this movie. I totally agree with you on the masterful storytelling this movie has. Even though I like seeing the everyday happenings on their own, like getting the telephone, it's amazing to see it all wrap up so beautifully at the climax. And yes, Livy was so smart! And Ray...he could rival Mr. Darcy any day!
    How did you find so many great pictures? I didn't get too many when I googled them.

    1. Abby P,
      Thank you and I'm so happy you enjoyed it!! Isn't the ending great? Whenever I really stop and analyze it and put myself in her place it's like, "WOW." And hee. I actually hadn't thought of contrasting Ray and Mr. Darcy, but you're absolutely right! :)

  10. An excellent review, Heidi! Now I REALLY want to watch this movie. It sounds lovely. And all the pictures!! Ahhh! That last picture is SO dear! :)

    1. Miss March,
      Thank you so much and I do hope you can see it soon!! ;)

  11. Hm.... From your review this sounds intriguing. Have you also read the book? A friend (a mentor/aunt type friend) read the book for a book club and was glad that I had not gotten around to reading it. It sounds like the movie is better for not having certain content in it. So out of curiosity can you compare the book with the movie at all?

    1. Sarah,
      Thanks so much for asking and I'm so glad you commented!

      As to your questions: at one time I glanced through the book, but I haven't actually read it, so I'm not sure if the characters were differently developed when they took it to film. My general impression was that there is certain 'content' in the book that I know they entirely skipped in the movie -- so on that score I can answer that the movie is entirely clean. They don't even go around talking super explicitly about what transpired for her to end up in the situation she's in.

      I hope that helps and let me know if you see it sometime and like it! :)

  12. This was so lovely, Heidi! I really want to see this now. Thanks for the review!:)

    ~Rilla Blythe

    1. Rilla,
      Thank you! I'm so glad and you're most welcome!! :)

  13. I.Love.This.Movie! It's positively one of my favorites! Heidi, you did a fantastic job writing the review - it's simply marvelous! Now I'm itching to re-read the book...:p ;)

    1. Sarah (R),
      Awwwww.... I'm SUPER happy you liked it, m'dear, and thank you!! ;D

  14. Oh yaaaayy. I'm so happy you love this too!!! :)

    Your review is SPLENDID. You highlighted so much that I agree with-and some points that I've never realized before! The contrast between the two sets of sister was especially stunning.

    Oh Ray. On first "glance", I didn't find him especially handsome or even nice (just shy and a little awkward-but then, who wouldn't be?) but at the end of the movie he was definitely a new favorite hero. He displays so much true love, unselfish, forgiving, and understanding love. But you already said everything that could be said. ;) He's just great.

    I love Livvy's story and her character arc and just...ohh. Everything about her and Ray's relationship is so darn sweet. (The dance scene!! The morning after he discovered the letter...his proposal...-sigh-)

    Basically, there's not much (if anything) that I disagree with you on, and I can not wait for your follow up post! :D (Especially as it concerns the outfits, which I adore in this film!)

    Another side note...don't you love the humor in this as well? It has such funny moments with being over the top. :) "How'd you meet?" haha
    And, "Thank you. Maybe now she'll keep it." (or something like that ;))

    1. Natalie,
      Oh good, I'm SO happy you loved it and THANK YOU!!! :D

      I agree with everything you said about Ray and Livy both.

      And ohh, the humor... it's so gentle it kind of just pops out and balances the rest, but it's so everyday-ish and fun. Like "Troy? Troy who?" And "We could have dug it up with the claw, Ray!" Love those lines. ;)

    2. :D Yes, indeed!! Aww, you're welcome!

      Exactly! As you said, it's everyday-ish and fun and incredibly sweet and adorable. :) Haha! I love those lines too!

  15. Well, I've added this to my TBR list. I do enjoy Skeet Ulrich -- loved him in The Newton Boys :-D

    1. Hamlette,
      Wonderful! Yes, it's well worth checking out. And I haven't seen The Newton Boys, but he's definitely great in here. It looks like a completely different part, so that'd certainly be interesting! :)

    2. The Newton Boys is an oddball little movie, and I can't recommend it without reservations, but it's got some really fun parts to it too.

  16. Saw this on YouTube last night and fell so much in love with it...I did not like Skeet before because of what he did to Greg Kinnear in "As Good As it Gets" but well... ;)

  17. I forgot to say that I adore your review... The stills you included were just lovely. This was just one of those movies that were thankfully available in full in YouTube, which is a great blessing for someone like me without a TV. I had no idea what it was about but I loved it.
    I love your reference on Joseph and Mary. I never thought about it until you pointed it out. I think Livy's problem here was she did not know that anybody can love for "no reason" at all. That someone was capable of giving love just like that. Like for her, love is something to earn and strive for. Ray just gave it freely to her and she did not know what to do with it. It's like, he already accepted her and her baby, so now what more to do here?
    Perhaps she was scared that by being a farmer's wife she will be less than who she believes she is. But her strength and smarts never diminished, because he empowered her too.

    On first viewing, I did not understand why Ray didn't want to dance when Livy was clearly "open" to the idea of him dancing with somebody else. It was only in second viewing that I understood that Ray only wanted to dance with her.
    I love that in the end she referred to herself as "Ray Singleton's wife", and it just came out naturally.

    And I love how he much he understood her struggle, what conflicted her and what she can do to free herself of it.

    For all of us who have watched it, we know it would be lovely to have someone like Ray's character... and for that I consider myself really blessed.

    All my love to you ladies and to you, Lady Heidi =) Thank you for so much this piece. I'm really happy to find a good tribute to this story.

  18. I just saw it. I was so moved by it that I was wondering if there was something wrong with me. I started Googling it to see if others were as impressed by it as I was. Apparently, as TV movies go, it was extremely popular.


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