1914. Arthur, Hamish Riddle, signs up for the British Army. Now bound to Captain Hornshaw, Benjamin Hartley (“Sylvia”, “Broadcast”), he has to leave his pregnant wife Mary, Katharine Orchard (“Luther”), behind.
At the same time in Germany, Nikolaus, Des Carney (“Vikings”, “The Limit Of”), also bids adieu to his wife Anna, Elif Knight (“Into the Badlands”, “Prey”). Both men are committed committed to fight for their country and return home as soon as possible; but the war is more unforgiving than expected.
In continuity with our modern representation of World War I, Their War by first-time writer/director Max Mason highlights what these so-called enemies shared rather than what divided them. Arthur and Nikolaus, the two protagonists, are given equal importance and screen time: there is no bad guys here except the war itself. Once the men leave their peaceful homes for opposite trenches, they both realize the futility of the slaughter at the same time but have to keep going if they want to go home.
The parallel editing is particularly efficient in establishing the protagonists’ common fate and similarities. Their War works best when it uses this parallel and stays silent to show us rather than tell. Indeed, there are unfortunately two dialogue scenes at the war front that edge on needless exposition and make the film lose its steam and strength.
The production value is great, especially for the war. The re-creation of the time period at home feels a bit off, both for England and Germany, but when it comes to showing the trenches the filmmakers used every tool at their dispositions to create very powerful and realistic scenes.
Their War is a great short film with a lot of care put behind it, and most of all an important reminder of people’s humanity, even if they seem to be on the opposite side of the front lines.