Socialist Worker

Too much farming in The Guardians, a story of changing women’s lives

by Bethan Turner
Issue No. 2618

Iris Bry plays a farm hand in The Guardians

Iris Bry plays a farm hand in The Guardians

The Guardians is an interesting exploration— in the last 20 minutes— of how the First World War changed the role of women in the workplace and the family.

Before that it’s mostly scenes of farming.

Beginning in 1915, the film follows the Hortense family and their young farm hand Francine. They hire her to replace their men who have gone off to fight in the war.

For most of the film the trenches seem pretty far removed from the lives of the women and older men left behind. But reminders that France is at war are interspersed at infrequent intervals.

In one scene families wait in terror in a church as the priest reads out the names of those killed at the front that week.

While this pattern is probably an accurate reflection of how the war was for people in rural areas, it probably doesn’t need to go on for almost two hours.

However, if you like scenes of picturesque French countryside, you should enjoy this film.

Plus it does manage to avoid falling into annoying war film romance stereotypes.

It shows how the independence women gained during the war led many of them, particularly the young, to begin to challenge traditional roles.

The film also explores the ways in which this was tied up with class.

The image of women pulling together throughout most of the film begins to fray and it becomes clear that they have diverging interests.

It also avoids French nationalism. In one scene former school teacher Constant looks distinctly uncomfortable as his ex-pupils read him a poem about crushing Germans.

The film’s main problem is that much of it is made up of farming scenes that often don’t add anything to the plot. You just sit there for five minutes as someone milks a cow.


If you enjoyed the TV drama Line of Duty then this new six-part series might be for you.

It’s written by Line Of Duty creator Jed Mercurio and features several of the same actors.

However, a word of warning. The storyline is about a war veteran who is now a Metropolitan Police security man. He’s assigned to protect a “ruthless” female home secretary.

The two have different politics but are—entirely predictably in such a series—drawn to each other.

BBC One,Sundays, 9pm

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Mon 20 Aug 2018, 16:32 BST
Issue No. 2618
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