Make Way for Tomorrow

Written by Michael Clawson

90/100

After raising five kids over five decades of marriage, elderly Lucy and Barkley Cooper are separating. Not because they want to though. No, it’s that with Barkley out of work, he can’t keep up with the mortgage payments on their house anymore, and none of their grown kids have the wherewithal—or much of a desire—to take in both of their aging parents. The Cooper children aren’t intentionally being cruel, they’re just too preoccupied with their own lives and relationships now to put much thought into how they might keep their parents under the same roof. So Barkley goes to live with one of their daughters, Lucy goes with one of their sons, and since they’re still, after many many years, deeply in love, Lucy and Barkley’s hearts ache for each other.

The cold, snowy winter setting, which I loved, fits with the sadness at the film’s emotional core. Victor Moore and Beulah Bondie play Barkley and Lucy, and they’re both heartbreakers; their missing each other and disappointment with the situation they find themselves is profoundly poignant. McCarey’s direction is delicate and his rhythm unhurried as he cuts back and forth between husband and wife in their respective new homes, and his camera watches with a compassionate eye as Barkley and Lucy gradually come to the crushing realization that living together again might not be possible. But they do get one last night with each other before the physical distance between them becomes even greater, a romantic night out on the town where they relive their honeymoon with a little help from some generous strangers. It’s a beautiful ending to a beautiful movie.

Make Way for Tomorrow is currently streaming on Criterion Channel

Make Way for Tomorrow Trailer

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