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Second Best (1994)

PG-13 | | Drama | 30 September 1994 (USA)
Graham, a lonely Welsh postal worker, adopts James, a troubled ten-year-old boy. Graham always wanted a son, but James loves his biological father too much to give Graham a chance. Will the two be able to accept each other as family?

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Writers:

(novel), (screenplay)
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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
...
Nathan Yapp ...
Jimmy
...
John
Chris Cleary Miles ...
James
Doris Irving ...
Adoption Shop Volunteer
James Warrior ...
Senior Social Worker
...
Debbie
Alfred Lynch ...
Edward
Rachel Freeman ...
Elsie
Gus Troakes ...
Jeffo
Mossie Smith ...
Lynn
Martin Troakes ...
Colin
...
Graham, age 20
Paul Wilson ...
Colin, age 20
...
Bernard
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Storyline

Graham Holt is a lonely middle-aged man who runs a postal substation in a small village in England. He decides to adopt a son. James is the troubled youth he gets with the assistance of social worker Debbie. James has been in an orphanage for years since his mother committed suicide. He adores his outlaw father John, sent to prison not long after the mother's death. Can James learn to love Graham? Can Graham settle for being second best? Written by Reid Gagle

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Genres:

Drama

Motion Picture Rating (MPAA)

Rated PG-13 for thematic elements | See all certifications »
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Details

Country:

|

Language:

Release Date:

30 September 1994 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Difícil elección  »

Box Office

Gross:

$86,115 (USA)
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Company Credits

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

Color:

Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
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Did You Know?

Trivia

Last film of Alfred Lynch. See more »

Quotes

[Remembering his mother's death]
Graham: Dad wasn't making much sense. His hands were like injured birds looking for a safe place to roost.
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Connections

Featured in Siskel & Ebert: Only You/Second Best/Pulp Fiction (1994) See more »

Soundtracks

Imagination
Written and Performed by Simon Boswell
Published by Sunfun Ltd.
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User Reviews

 
As a Father's Day gift: The Best and Second to none
4 November 1998 | by (Philadelphia) – See all my reviews

David Cook, author of the novel of the same title and also involved in the film, is known for his sensitive and probing treatments of characters marginalized in society. After seeing the film, I made a point of searching for the book, and at long last spotted a "galley proof edition" in a used bookstore in Oxford. The picture is faithful to the novel-- if anything, excessively so. Much dialogue is reproduced intact. A number of small incidents and gestures which seem inconsequential or puzzling in the movie were revealed as symbols or evocations of episodes which the book had fleshed out. Directors themselves so immersed in every detail are at risk of assuming too much understanding from the audience, depriving them of just another few words, or a brief camera close-up, which would have put a point across coherently. But these are quibbles, for there is enough depth and quiet eloquence left here to call for a rare ten stars out of ten.

This is the story of an unlikely relationship which succeeds as the mutual balm for unusual wounds. The man Graham and the boy Jamie both suffer profoundly from separation from their fathers-- physical separation in Jamie's case (his adored dad is in prison), emotional in Graham's. Each discovers that the other cherishes the memory of just a few days of filial closeness, shattered shards of supreme bliss sparkling in the dismal landscape of their emotional lives. Yet not only does Graham, a candidate to adopt Jamie, lack the primary qualification for a stepfather: a wife. He is a shy nerd with no obvious charisma whatsoever for a hyperactive, street-wise, cynical kid.

But traumas in his past have stamped this boy with a vehement misogyny. As little as he fancies anyone presuming to take his father's place, he craves having a stepmother even less. Graham's bachelorhood is a relative advantage. Graham proves himself gradually with humility, honesty, and a quality of unfailing respect for the person struggling underneath Jamie's sullenness which one can only describe as reverence. A "special-ed" teacher of my acquaintance called Jamie (and Chris Cleary Miles' passionate characterization) very realistic, and pronounced Graham (as brought to life masterfully by William Hurt) "a genius" in his approach to the developing relationship.

While some will complain that this film drags, others will value its quiet atmosphere in which heart-codes are patiently decrypted. The more important the dialogue is, the likelier it is to approach whispers. One crucial central scene, barely audible, as the haunting strains of the score's "rift" theme echo away more faintly still, never to be heard again, must be one of the tenderest moments ever captured on celluloid.

Perhaps Graham has been plagued by a touch of agoraphobia. The cinematography deftly suggests this world view: interiors of small rooms, fussy wallpaper, obtrusive props, brilliant curtains covering the windows; exteriors somehow painting scenes of ravishing beauty with brushstrokes of vague terror.

Graham Holt is an unlikely hero, but a true one. If more people treated one another the way he does, the world would be a better place.


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