Special Cinema Spotlight: Housewife, 49

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This made for tv movie came out in the UK in 2006. I didn't discover it until recently and I'm glad I did. I feel like its one of the those little treasure films that once you uncover it there are delightful surprises are in store for you.

It is set at the beginning of World War Two and follows the life of a housewife by the name of, Nella Last. She married a man who is emotional unattached to her, she has two sons that serve in the military in different ways, all the while suffering from anxiety, depression, and low self-esteem.

I know its the year 2016 but I think a lot of women can still relate to how Nella was feeling in those first years of the war. Being alone or unable to have the freedom others have or not having the support and friendships one needs to get through the tough days that life gives you. But at her doctors very smart request he encourages her to take on a diary and write her thoughts and feelings, Then one of her sons then encourages her to join the WVS (Women's Voluntary Service). She eventually does both; submitting her diary entries to the Mass Observation as well as spending her days with the MVS and the Red Cross.

Before you know it Nella begins to stand up for herself, address the  issues with her husband, and faces honestly the tragedy and grief that was brought on by the war. Basically her life and her story as she shares it opens up like a flower. It was painful and beautiful to watch. Painful to see her so isolated and beautiful to see her find her voice.
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The film is named after what the Mass Observation labeled Nella as, Housewife, 49, which was her age when she began submitting her entries. She made entries from 1939-1966. She passed away in 1968 at the age of 79. But her experiences as a wife and mother and most importantly as a women didn't go unnoticed.

All of her submissions can be seen at the University of Sussex and four books were published based on her diaries. I think reading someone's private thoughts and feelings in a diary can feel strange but it also gives one such a personal and special insight into the life and times of that person.

I personally felt inspired by just going through the journey of watching the film, I have no doubt I will feel the same once I read her books. Have you heard of Nella Last or this film? What are your thoughts about it?

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  1. I read Nella's diary when I was a teen in the 1970s and have seen the TV movie. So glad you've discovered her too. I think her life stands as an example of the work women have done for themselves to find and have a voice in the face of a world that is interested in her solely as a wife and mother and not as a person. In Australia there was a book called 'Brian's Wife, Jennies Mum' published in the mid-70s that struck a nerve, giving a name to many women's frustrations, as it collected different women's stories of being a wife and mother - women without a name but with a role and how women reclaimed themselves when opportunities (such as study) outside those two roles arose. It was the sort of book that was passed around women. Stories and personal histories are important, nothing changes without them. I also liked that Nella's world changed as she made friends. A reminder that women need other women in their lives.

    1. Oh Merrian, how wonderful that you read them! I cannot wait to do so now more than ever. Thank you for sharing your experiences with Nella's story with me. xox

  2. I have a vague memory of this film so maybe I have watched it but i'd like to watch it again and read the books. I find personal stories so fascinating because they are true reflections of what happened.

  3. I saw this film a few years ago because I was interested in Victoria Wood's other work. I associate her with comedy and this film was a revelation to me in regards her immense talent. I found to film to be heartbreaking and uplifting. I haven't read the books.


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