Celia Crowson (Patricia Roc) is a young, shy British lady who has been called to service in World War II. Her parents aren’t happy that she has to leave, but they know that the country needs every bit of help it can get in the war effort.
For Celia’s part, she feels a sense of excitement. She hopes to land what she believes will be a glamorous and action-packed position as a nurse or airwoman, but she gets pegged to work in a munitions factory instead, much to her own dismay.
Though initially unhappy with her assignment, Celia soon learns to make the best of it. While working at the factory, she strikes up a number of friendships with her fellow wartime workers. She also finds herself falling in love with a handsome young airman named Fred (Gordon Jackson).
Sidney Gilliat and Frank Launder wrote and directed 1943’s Millions Like Us together. The two collaborated on many occasions, including on the script for Alfred Hitchcock’s 1938 film The Lady Vanishes. Gilliat and Launder aren’t the only famed screen pair at work here: this is the fourth film in which Basil Radford and Naunton Wayne portray the characters Charters and Caldicott. (The three preceeding films to feature the characters were The Lady Vanishes, Night Train to Munich and Crook’s Tour.)
Millions Like Us is a bit of a slow starter, but it picks up slightly later on and the central romance that emerges is very cute to watch. I wish the pace was slightly quicker throughout, but I still enjoyed the film for the most part.
The character of Celia is a little bit unlikable and over-dramatic in the beginning. She whines about her job assignment and is delusional about the realities of war. (A daydream sequence shows her becoming a pilot just to meet a man.)
We do see Celia grow a bit throughout the film. She matures and gains a more level-headed attitude about the war, finally realizing the harshness of it all but keeping an optimistic attitude. Patricia Roc gives a solid performance in the role.
The film as a whole is unique in that it portrays women in the wartime workforce, a topic that wasn’t (and still isn’t) often explored by entertainment media. However, it is still a rigidly conventional film in terms of its overall themes. Placing your female characters in a factory isn’t enough for the film to be a leap forward for women in society. The focus of these women’s lives is largely still on men and romance, and it is implied that their time in the workforce is merely temporary until they can get hitched and start families. (For somewhat more complex portrayals of female workers in World War II, I recommend the unfortunately and undeservedly cancelled Canadian TV series Bomb Girls, which is available on Netflix Instant.)
Millions Like Us is a decent flick, but there are better war films around and better wartime romances. I wouldn’t highly recommend this one, but it isn’t a bad watch for a rainy afternoon. The score: 2.5/5