So much has been written and shot about World War II that each new proposal has the challenge of telling a story that brings a different vision to one of the worst historical events of the 20th century. In it is ‘The Daughters of the Reich’, third feature film by Andy Goddard, Very experienced director in television series such as ‘London: Criminal District’, ‘Downton Abbey’ or ‘Carnival Row’. The film, one of the first British titles to have an exclusive theatrical release after the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic, delves into the uncomfortable fraternal ties that exist between the United Kingdom and Germany and that in the Second World War lived their most turbulent moment.
The film shows the attempts to recover those historical ties that existed between both countries (It should be remembered that the current British royal family, members of the House of Windsor, has German roots, being originally the House of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha) and that the First World War broke out. For this reason, the film brings to the big screen the history of the female institution that, in the early 1930s, instructed teenagers in German high politics in Bexhill-on-Sea, in the south-east of England.
However, what could have been a drama about the contradictions that these young German women live, daughters of Nazi politicians and governors, being brought up in a democracy and removed from the pernicious influence of the Third Reich, it ends up becoming a spy film, in which the mission is clear at the beginning, since what happens to the girls will depend on whether Germany and the United Kingdom will declare war.
A theme that pointed to a more ambitious film
However, what initially seems very obvious, finally Goddard, who signs the script together with actors Celyn Jones and Eddie Izzard, entangles it in a way you don’t know If the mission is to anticipate the movements of the rival country or protect some students who will be part of the other side.
That question, Goddard does not know how to solve, causing what could have been an attractive historical film about the chiaroscuro of the personal relationships of people from opposing countries (as was the wonderful ‘Land of Mine. Under the sand’), remain in a spy tape that turns its historical context into a mere Macguffin. Nor is it valid as a personal story, since there is no character who manages to stand out on an emotional level, which also distances the film from titles such as ‘A bag of marbles’ or ‘The year we stopped playing’.
With which, ‘The Daughters of the Reich’ ends up playing along the same lines as ‘The Song of Forgotten Names’, ‘The Tobacco Seller’ or ‘The Man with the Iron Heart’, Minor titles that shine in great production design, solid performances thanks to an upscale cast but fail to deliver a different story to facts that have been reproduced in the seventh art on countless occasions.
The best: Judi Dench. Whatever you do, you are splendid. If she could be a cat, becoming a demanding but noble high school principal is a piece of cake.
Worst: His plot ends up losing interest once the protagonist’s mission has been discovered. It also feels like a missed opportunity when it comes to addressing the historic relationship between the UK and Germany.