Yesterday Is History
Ray Martin (narrator), Drew Harwood, Aria Emory, James McCabe
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…offers an opportunity to hear unfiltered tales of soldier life at ground level.
Narrated by journalist, Ray Martin, Yesterday Is History is a two-part miniseries that looks at how the experience of both world wars reverberate in the lives of two families. In the first episode, we meet the Donlon brothers, a pair of likely lads who fought in WW1, whilst the second episode introduces us to Englishman, William Philbrook, whose tour of duty in Egypt and its warm climate would encourage him to emigrate with his family to Australia.
Their stories are retold by members of their own families, often with great love, which are then re-enacted with the kind of period specific detail that you would expect from a series that originally aired on The History Channel. There’s nothing fanciful about Yesterday Is History, and these are the kind of stories that don’t need to be overegged with overwrought pretences of drama. There are moments where, with the gift of hindsight, we can empathise with the trauma that resonated in these men for decades to come. Nowadays, we’d recognise it as PTSD, but these men didn’t talk about their feelings; they just get on with it and take care of their families.
And whilst the re-enactments are a mixed bag of performances, with many a scene feeling like a history lesson rather than organic storytelling, perhaps the biggest weakness is Ray Martin’s narration, the tone of which is often at odds with what’s on screen. Whilst Mr. Martin is a veteran in the media, it feels like members of the families should be allowed to tell their tales without the need of a VO recounting what they’ve already said. As a stylistic choice, it can be off-putting. For those with an interest in the military and Australia’s involvement in world wars, Yesterday Is History, like the classic Gallipoli, offers an opportunity to hear unfiltered tales of soldier life at ground level.