An older generation, tasked with preparing for a warfare like no other, and not understanding the complexities of the inevitably bleak nuclear holocaust that they’re ill-prepared to handle, doesn’t sound like a film that could be at all comfortable or cute. But When the Wind Blows utilises its lovely animated style, mixing it in with lingering background clues, subtle messages on ageism and preparation, to craft a formidable piece dedicated to pulling what little light it can out of its surroundings. Directed by Jimmy T. Murakami, the film lines itself up for dual-led character study, an elderly couple looking to survive the fallout of mutually assured destruction.
The light, spry charms of the animation collide well with the impending doom that follows. Retired, happily married couple Hilda (Peggy Ashcroft) and Jim (John Mills) fumble their way through preparation for a war they understate to one another often. Their Blitz mentality that saw them through a war of a previous generation shows them as fumbling, accidentally ignorant of the destruction that will soon befall those around them. These moments are well-balanced between frustrating and endearing, with Hilda and Jim coming across as relatively real individuals. Their loveable energy and build-up are suitably short, just enough to get us invested in their lives, and easily convincing us that we should root for their survival.
Jim’s survivalist instincts of tightening the belt strap, keeping calm and carrying on, collide with his desire to follow the orders of the British government. He follows confusing instructions, conflicting arguments from leaflets and newspapers, all the while only trying to do what he believes is the right thing. It’s rather charming, and coaxes you into a vulnerable place, because to get on board with these characters and actively like them is to deal with the inevitable turn. Hilda acts as a rebuttal to this, seeing it as silly, not understanding the severity of warfare of current events. It’s a clear and convincing slap at those in society that feel themselves above world events, disinterested with politics or the current state of affairs. It’s a criticism that sadly rings true thirty years later.
When the Wind Blows is a strong animated film with a superb soundtrack Roger Waters, Squeeze, Genesis and David Bowie. Its message is as clear as the atomic blast, a blinding condemnation of dusty old attitudes in the face of inevitable disruption. Superbly well-crafted in these moments, poignant and direct with its audience, but not in your face or melancholic about the whole scenario. Murakami never tries to pull endearing set-pieces out of the harrowing nightmare Hilda and Jim find themselves in.