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Of Mice and Men Movie Review

Updated on February 8, 2020

This film version of Of Mice and Men ( 1992 ) is adapted by the great playwright and screenwriter Horton Foote and directed by Gary Sinise. It stars John Malkovich as Lennie, and Gary Sinise as George, and it's one of my favourite films.

This story was based on the novel by John Steinbeck, set in California during the Great Depression. The two characters have big plans that go completely wrong.

The brilliant title comes from a poem by Robert Burns, entitled 'To a Mouse'. Burns addresses a wee mouse whose house in a wheat field has just been destroyed by a plough. Burns writes in the last two verses,

"But, Mousie, thou art no thy-lane,
In proving foresight may be vain;
The best-laid schemes o' mice an' men
Gang aft agley,
An' lea'e us nought but grief an' pain,
For promis'd joy!

Still thou art blest, compar'd wi' me
The present only toucheth thee:
But, Och! I backward cast my e'e.
On prospects drear!
An' forward, tho' I canna see,
I guess an' fear!"

English Translation:

But Mouse, you are not alone,
In proving foresight may be vain:
The best laid schemes of mice and men
Go often askew,
And leave us nothing but grief and pain,
For promised joy!

Still you are blessed, compared with me!
The present only touches you:
But oh! I backward cast my eye,
On prospects dreary!
And forward, though I cannot see,
I guess and fear!

Picture the scene:

A TV flickering in a darkened London high school library and a group of about 15 kids. Most of them are boys, most of them disaffected with behaviour issues, rough and undisciplined, seemingly without a care for me, or each other. They are impatiently waiting to watch a film. To be entertained, anything is better than 'real' work.

I was their schoolteacher and my task was to get them through their GCSE English exam, and although they were interesting and I loved them dearly, they were not an easy group to teach.

Today, the task I was asking the to do was to sit in silence for an hour and a half to watch the movie Of Mice and Men. While they ‘settled’ I braced myself for ensuing chaos.

They were very familiar with the book, the plot, their favourite lines and moments. We had read the novel over many weeks in class, so there would be no surprises for them, nothing that would keep them guessing, and I doubted that this film would hold their interest for longer than a few minutes. We had done a great deal of work in preparation for this -the reward of watching the film.

I was so wrong because this film stunned us all including me.

To my immense relief, the film totally captivated it's 'motley' audience. I had no idea that we would all be so moved.

The acting and directing were superb.

The tangible loneliness and desperation of characters like George and Lennie, Curley and Curley's Wife, and Slim, touched my kids deeply. We actually cried.

They watched it carefully and in silence even though it moves at a slow pace and many scenes are dark, which add to the sense of desperation and solitude. These scenes are suddenly and starkly contrasted with others that are so sunny and bright they actually hurt your eyes. Also, it is a film with very little action. It is painful, extremely sad with a tragic ending that offers no hope for any characters.

We were glued to the screen. They watched in silence, totally engrossed.

Do you think this version is better than the 1939 version?

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This touching scene shows George telling Lennie about their dream. A dream that comes to such a brutal end.

Set during the Great Depression, this wonderful tale deals with epic themes such as justice, sexism, racism, prejudice, friendship, and the American Dream. Even though it was a contemporary story of its time, so much of this film connected with my kids because its universal themes affected them in their everyday lives.

Despite the fact that none of us was American, and some came from diverse places as Turkey and Bangladesh, this film magically brought us all together and made an incredible job of retelling John Steinbeck's literary classic.

One boy told me that he’d recently been to a party in London and met a guy just like Curley! The kids understood Crooks and his suffering through their own experience of racism, and the girls could imagine just how Curley's wife felt, as she got right under their skin.

When the film ended nobody moved because we had just witnessed Steinbeck's imaginary world. We had seen what he must have had in his head when he wrote his great book.

This movie of Of Mice and Men rang loudly with my kids because it is so honest. It is true to Steinbeck and it is a beautiful and powerful film that continues to live with me.

I cannot understand why it was all but ignored by critics and the public when it was first released. I urge everyone who hasn't seen it yet to find the time to watch it.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2013 Giovanna


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