|Index||2 reviews in total|
8 out of 10 people found the following review useful:
tough to watch, 8 April 2000
Author: bgilch from Montreal, Quebec
A study of a mentally-retarded adult as he copes with the decrepit British
social services system of the Thatcher years. He keeps pigeons, walks
aimlessly in the slums, can't hold a job, gets thrown in the worst
hospital in England, and comes to love someone much like
This careful and painful film shows McKellen and director Frears at their best. Not easy to watch and cruelly unsentimental, it is nonetheless an important classic of grit-level British realism. This film convinced me at a young age that I would never live in an England that treated people like this.
5 out of 6 people found the following review useful:
Indescribably wrenching, 31 May 2002
Author: Oliver Lenhardt from Toronto
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
These comments refer only to the original 65 min. film titled WALTER
WALTER is without question one of the bleakest, most deeply saddening films ever made. As a chronicle of the pathetic life of one of Britain's retarded citizens, the film records one indignity visited upon him after another. Walter is mistreated by almost everyone he comes into contact with, only, so good-natured and unknowing is he that he doesn't fully realize the contempt with which people view him; still, some of it does reach even his muddled brain: Subconsciously he knows he is considered something less than human.
When not toiling away in a monotonous, mockery-laden job situation, or suffering relentless hectoring from his mother, Walter takes refuge with a beloved flock of pigeons given to him by his father. They are the only creatures who see him without judgment, and he seems completely at peace in their presence.
His gruff, overburdened parents love him out of filial commitment, but, being deeply religious, they see him as a curse, a blight on their lives and on society. After her husband passes away, Walter's mother loses the will to live and, in short order, she too dies. Walter discovers her one morning in bed and is unable to rouse her. For several days Walter remains housebound, helpless as his mother decomposes. He releases his pigeons in her bedroom, and soon she and the room are covered in their waste. Eventually, a friend of his mother's drops by, and Walter is promptly carted off to a nightmarish institution, where his debased, pitiable "life" only continues. Being one of the less disabled inmates of this hellhole, Walter must help out with the others, some of whom are psychotic and predatory. Soon enough though, he has grown accustomed to his new circumstances, and soldiers on.
WALTER is depressing beyond words, but in this case that's a compliment. Such a story deserves telling without undue sentimentalization; it thereby becomes all the more moving. Frears's direction is stark and uncluttered, accentuating the grim surroundings.
Now, all of this would have been irrelevant and perhaps disastrous were it not for the absolutely MASTERLY performance of Ian MacKellen. The film's success hinges largely on his acting, and he delivers with flying colors. He literally inhabits his role like no other actor I've ever seen. It's a devastating portrayal. WALTER is one of my favorite films. Be warned though, it's not easy to watch for anyone with a heart. 10/10
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