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Early 20th century England: while toasting his daughter Catherine's engagement, Arthur Winslow learns the royal naval academy expelled his 14-year-old son, Ronnie, for stealing five shillings. Father asks son if it is true; when the lad denies it, Arthur risks fortune, health, domestic peace, and Catherine's prospects to pursue justice. After defeat in the military court of appeals, Arthur and Catherine go to Sir Robert Morton, a brilliant, cool barrister and M.P., who examines Ronnie and suggests that they take the matter before Parliament to seek permission to sue the Crown. They do, which keeps Ronnie's story on the front page and keeps Catherine in Sir Robert's ken. Written by
Sometimes the best films you see are the ones you've never heard about. I saw this one sitting on the shelf of my local video store and rented it on a lark.
This is an adaptation of a play written by the late Terence Rattigan ("The Browning Version," "Separate Tables"). Here it is brought to the screen by another famous playwright, David Mamet, who wrote the screenplay and directed this film. It concerns the true story of a young boy who was expelled from the British Naval Academy early in the twentieth century for allegedly stealing a postal order.
This movie is very much a play put onto film. The sets are almost exclusively interior and the action is carried forward through dialogue. Events not at hand are explained through theatrical devices such as reading a letter or someone remarking on what's happened. At times I wished the director had made it more of a movie but it's still a very good film, mainly because the key actors are so good.
Mamet's wife, Rebecca Pidgeon, plays Catherine Winslow, the little boy's older sister. She's an outspoken but gentle woman who's strongly in favor of women's rights. Jeremy Northam plays Sir Robert Morton, the lawyer and member of the House of Commons who takes the Winslow case. He's outwardly reserved but inside he's as passionate about justice as Catherine. Both of these actors give outstanding performances. And as you might expect, there's a little romance suggested between the two by the end of the film.
I wish I knew more about the Winslow case because the film assumes you know most of the facts already. It must have been an important event in early twentieth century British history because they've made several films about it, including one made in 1948 with Robert Donat (Sir Robert Morton), Margaret Leighton (Catherine), and Cedric Hardwicke (the boy's father) that I'll have to see. There must be nuances about the relationship between the government and the common man in this case that are only hinted at here.
Very good entertainment and the acting will knock you off your feet.
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