The main story is set in the year before World War II, drew out by the narration of an old man who is a relative of the heroin Anne and who at that time was a little boy.
Anne was an adopted child of an aristocrat family. She was a popular actress before the War started. Her father Alexander and brother Ralph were all working for the government. The family seems to live a tranquil and idyllic life. However, after the death of an old friend of the family, the peace life was gone forever. Anne accidentally found a record which contained the evidence that Alexander and Ralph were arranging an action to assassinate their political opponents in order to keep Britain out of the war. And she later found out that whoever knew about the existence of this record was killed or commit suicide. Trying to dig out the truth, she met with strong resistance. And eventually, as she was getting closer to the truth, the family grounded her in a country villa. Being secretly released by her mother, Anne chose to leave the family forever.
The movie presents three common attitudes the British people held towards war.
One is represented by the father who had gone through the World War I. They had seen the cruelty of war and chose to do their best to keep the peace, even at the cost of that the Britain might be Nazified although they did not approve Nazism. From today’s perspective, their approach was least inadvisable, but this judgment is based on one premise that we already knew the course of history. Although the policy of appeasement is doomed to fail, this attitude still enjoyed great popularity before the war broke out. Because it not only corresponded to the country’s inherently conservative bias but also met people’s requirements of avoiding mass casualties. No wonder why the father in the movie, together with the whole family, would resort to extreme measures to stop Anne. Objectively speaking, Prime Minister Chamberlain’s appeasement policy was not useless at all for it bought Mr. Chamberlain some time for updating the Air Force and the defense radar system, which set the foundation for the Churchill government.
The second attitude is represented by Anne and Hector in the movie, and Winston Churchill in reality. On the one hand, Anne was driven by her sense of justice that people should never commit atrocity even it is for the interests of the country. On the other hand, she did realize that blindly making compromise to Germany was in vain.
The last one is represented by the mother, an inconspicuous member of the family. Compared to her husband and children, she showed little enthusiasm in politics and stayed out of the whole action towards Anne. Every time she appeared on the scene, she was doing gardening. Let things drift if they do not affect one personally. This is also a feasible way to save oneself during the war time, but it is the most passive method among the three.
I think the director shows clearly in the story which attitude he favors. In the end, all the other family members died. Except Walter and his brother who was just a baby when things happened, Anne was the only one survived, which symbolizes the victory of bravery and justice.