A profoundly moving picture [from a story by I.A.R. Wylie] of family life in Germany during the First World War, giving a sympathetic insight into the effect upon the humble people of rural Bavaria of the great struggle. The production is magnificent in the amazing effectiveness of its fine realism and in its utter simplicity.
The story is the commonplace history of a widow and her four sons. Joseph goes to America before the war, marries and has his own little delicatessen shop, and a baby is born. Then the war comes. The other three brothers go to the front and one by one are killed. There is no ‘war stuff ‘, the war tragedy is enacted in the homely cottage of the lone mother.
Margaret Mann’s playing of the big role is a miracle of unaffected naturalness. Her Frau Bernie lives from the moment the film starts to its finish. Something of the same effortless simplicity has been communicated to the whole cast. The picture is rich in fascinating characters, such as the pompous but kindly old German letter carrier (Albert Gran) whose agonizing task it is to deliver the casualty notices to Frau Bernie; the Burgomeister of the village (August Tollaire), and the innkeeper (Hughie Mack).