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The Winslow Boy
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Reviews & Ratings for
The Winslow Boy More at IMDbPro »

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6 out of 7 people found the following review useful:

"Quid est veritas"

9/10
Author: ianlouisiana from United Kingdom
15 January 2006

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

The English legal system does not concern itself with such fine conceits as guilt or innocence,concentrating instead on the minutiae of interpretation,precedent,case-law,acceptability of evidence,and,most of all,the eloquence of the barristers.They are,after all,lawyers arguing points of law devised by other lawyers in front of another lawyer whose opinion may well be contested by another group of lawyers at a later stage.So it is in "The Winslow Boy",a relic of the pre "kitchen sink" era of the British Theatre,one of the last hurrahs of the complacent middle-aged men before the angry young men had their brief revolution. Their breath of fresh air soon became a gale of fetid air and the complacent middle-aged men soon had their slippers back in the hearth -some of the former A.Y.M.joining the ranks of the reactionaries. Mr Terence Rattigan's story of the boy accused of theft and his family's extraordinary campaign to prove his innocence is open to the same questions of interpretation.Ronnie Winslow's guilt is never considered by anyone except his prospective counsel,and,in a rather melodramatic scene,he too appears to be convinced that a miscarriage of justice has taken place.Or does he just take on the case to get closer to the boy's sister?Is it the film's premise that no price is too high to pay nor is any cause more noble than establishing the truth - or is it that truth becomes irrelevant in the battle between two opposing lawyers or in the escalating juggernaut of publicity? Set in the uneasy peace preceding the first world war,"The Winslow Boy" examines that most excoriated of institutions,the middle class family. Gruff but loving paterfamilias,supportive wife/mother,strong-willed independent-minded daughter,charming,polite but slightly rakish older son and the eponymous younger son.The dynamics of such a group of people are skilfully portrayed in a number of short well-written scenes that establish their relationships.Mr Nigel Hawthorne and Miss Gemma Jones are outstanding as the parents,she having the more difficult task of seeming slightly subservient and at the same time the real strength of the family and the one holding it together.Mr Hawthorne starts off the epitome of male rationality and at the end of the film has become obsessed by his campaign perhaps even to the edge of madness,whilst Miss Jones despite her emotional involvement with her younger son becomes more pragmatic as the campaign goes on.Driven to virtual bankruptcy by the costs(echoes of "Bleak House" here)the Winslows are driven closer together by the experience. Miss Rebecca Pigeon plays Kate,the rebellious "New Woman",cigarette smoking supporter of womens' suffrage.She is completely believable in the role and I can only think that the severe criticism of her is of the "sour grapes" variety.Her brother Matthew plays her brother and it works very well.There is a subtle interplay between them that reflects their real-life relationship and enhances all their scenes together. Kate supports vaguely leftish causes that are anathema to her father and is ambivalent about briefing the eminent barrister Sir Robert Morton,scourge of the Trade Union movement(the devastatingly handsome Mr Jeremy Northam) but he wins her over by declaring his belief in her brother's innocence after a cross-examination in his office. As the family's money is gradually drained away Kate loses her Lifeguards officer fiancé but doesn't seem unduly bothered despite declaring lifelong love for him to her mother"I love him in every possible way a woman can love a man",she told her discomfited parent.

The family solicitor (Mr Colin Stinton) her devoted swain for years is gently rejected and her relationship with Sir Robert Morton slowly develops from confrontation to co-existence with room for development. At the end of the court case the two have a loaded conversation and the final exchange is worthy of Oscar Wilde. Guy Edwards as Ronnie Windsor recalls the kind of boy who once rolled hoops along the banks of the Serpentine under Nanny's careful eye. The change from fierce denial to apparent disinterest in his fate is well-observed.From a slightly sanctimonious prig he turns into a readily recognisable somewhat bemused teenager whose priorities in life have inevitably altered.Only Mr Hawthorne's steely determination remains unbending and he has paid for it not only financially but also with his health.Whether it is a price worth paying is the question at the heart of this film.

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4 out of 4 people found the following review useful:

The return of Donat and other observations about The Winslow Boy.

Author: phansiet2 from Boston Ma.
1 July 2000

First I'd like to thank David Mamet for recognizing the remarkable similarity between Jeremy Northam and the late great Robert Donat and then putting it to impeccable use in The Winslow Boy. Donat has been missing for far too long from the cable stations and video rental lists. I'm getting a campaign started to force Amc and TMC to bring back all the old Donat films such as the original version of The Winslow Boy, Count of Monte Cristo, etc. First I'd like to state that by comparing Mr. Northams' performance to Mr. Donats' that I'm in no way diminishing it. On the contrary I find that his ability to evoke the memory of Donat lies in an amazing talent and an astounding technique. His first appearance in The Winslow Boy more than satisfied my glee at the casting of him in this role. When he first steps into the view of the camera, glimpses Catherine and then holds his legal files against him as if to shield his nakedness,( he is of course only naked in the sense that he is not entirely appropriately dressed without his tailcoat)my heart leapt at the thought that I was in for a deja vu movie experience. Excellant direction by Mr. Mamet.I was further pleased throughout the film to realize that although he was pulling out all the wonderful Donatisms, I never once for a moment doubted his sincerity in the role. He was Sir Robert and he was at that moment truely smitten. Mr. Northams' ability to let you see his characters thoughts is so finally tuned he hardly needs his own remarkable gift with dialogue. Other fabulous Donat moments from the film: His court room orations, "No sir' I will not stand down", very reminiscent of Young Mr. Pitt and his stuttering admonition not to "endow an unimportant incident with a romantic significance."Richard Hannay and Mr. Chips are alive and well. And don't get me started on the sexuality of the cigarette smoking.Also check out on the video his uncanny ability to match his shots in cuts on action.

Well thats enough about Mr Northams riveting multi-leveled performance. Mr Mamets restrained, precise, intelligent direction, breathed such vital life in to this 53 yr. old stage play that I'm eager to see what else he has planned. And how many other actors are lining up to work with him. This is a director who knows what he wants. Most of you have already pointed so many of this films tremendous merits I won't be redundant by repeating them. That is after all Mr. Mamets gig. But to the others of you who claimed to of missed the point or couldn't see the tension, drama or eroticism than all I have to say to you is,stuffy, wordy, Edwardian drawing room drama, my aunt Fannie. How little you know about movie viewing.

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5 out of 6 people found the following review useful:

Outstanding film.

10/10
Author: jack.hunter
26 February 2001

Outstanding film in every respect. Wonderfully written and delivered dialog. Superb casting and performances. I noticed Rebecca Pidgeon has drawn flak from some reviewers but I thought she was excellent in every way. Since when does being the director's wife automatically disqualify an actress from a film part? I give this movie a 10.

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3 out of 3 people found the following review useful:

Understatement, wit, restraint

10/10
Author: Luque-2 from Racine, Quebec, Canada
5 March 2000

This play, brilliantly transposed to film, comes across very effectively, with its dialogue worthy, in places, of Oscar Wilde. What pleasure for the viewer in the eloquence of things left unsaid! What a splendid example of how the constraints of politeness in no way detract from the frankness of the feelings expressed!

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3 out of 3 people found the following review useful:

A Great G Movie from David Mamet!!

10/10
Author: Cecily Dexter from New York, New york
25 February 2000

This movie was enthralling from start to finish. The acting was so good it almost distracted me from the plot. The plot was so compelling that it made the brilliant dialog almost superfluous. The period atmosphere was perfect, but somehow you never forgot you were watching a David Mamet project. I don't want to give away the plot, but this is one of the few movies I have seen with a wonderful love story and not so much as a kiss! Maybe David Mamet is Jane Austen reincarnated!

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4 out of 5 people found the following review useful:

Cool and Crafty

Author: harry-76 from Cleveland, Ohio
29 November 2002

Traditional English logic and technical craftsmanship are most abundant in this sixth remake of "The Winslow Boy."

All the stylistic artifices and underplayed emotions of the Brits are played out here, as a fine production company executes its work.

The deft combination of Writer-Director-Actor-Producer David Mamet and Playright Supreme Sir Terrance Rattigan result in a compelling dramatic experience.

Jeremy Northham's work as Sir Robert impressed me as owing no small measure to the thespian legacy of Christopher Plummer, Lawrence Harvey and Sir Dirk Bogard -- all of whom being under the umbrella of Lord Lawrence Olivier.

Too, Nigel Hawthorne's Arthur tips its theatrical hat to Sir Ralph Richardson and John Guilgud. Rebecca Piegeon's Catherine is the picture of emotional composure, allowing us small glimpses of her real self.

The entire context of this situational enactment strikes me as culturally stifling, emotionally repressive, and humanisticly skewed.

However, the purpose of the play is to clearly present the "facts," allowing viewers to draw their own conclusion. With this objective in mind, the company has produced a constantly interesting drama of a decidedly overblown court case.

Alaric Jans' score and orchestration provide a notable complement.

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2 out of 2 people found the following review useful:

9/10

Author: lucy-66 from London
27 August 2002

What a brilliant film, just seen it on TV. Trailer in the UK press called it "emotion among the upper classes". Odd, because it's about a not-very-rich MIDDLE

class family's fight against the UPPER class establishment. "Let right be done" - their case about the theft of a few shillings ends up exposing the unfairness of military tribunals and possibly changes the process. Their lack of money to

carry on the fight is essential to the story. Catherine loses her dowry (and

fiancee). Her brother has to quit university for a dull job. Also, though their upper lips remain stiff, their warm affection and loyalty as a family is obvious. Acting and directing are great. And that last line, oh wow! xxx

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2 out of 2 people found the following review useful:

best end scene dialogue ever !

9/10
Author: rvannoten from Belgium
3 August 2002

Intelligent, skillful and delightful "British" film based on Rattigan's play. Mamet's adaptation is excellent and all actors are up to the job. How heavenly sobriety glitters! But most of all, and that is why I comment in this column for the very first time, the dialogues of the end scene made an everlasting impression. Very witty, David Mamet!!! And very subtle play by Northam and Rebecca Pidgeon, who are very meritorious throughout the film, adding to the greatness of an as brilliant as ever Sir Nigel Hawthorne. Please give us more of this David Mamet!

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2 out of 2 people found the following review useful:

The Epitome of An English Film

8/10
Author: drew-121 from Mansfield UK
27 July 2002

Having watched this film three times, I must say that it is quite emphatically one of the best movies of the 1990's.

Mamet knows how to rework a script and how to direct. He certainly drew great performances from his wife and the late great Sir Nigel Hawthorne.

My greatest praise too for the cinematography. Simple and effective.

Recommended viewing for those who like a good story and classy films.

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2 out of 2 people found the following review useful:

"Very English" may or may not be a compliment, but . . .

Author: gmr-4 from Lowell, Mich. U.S.A.
13 October 2001

this was a right good movie. It was so good that it perhaps played three weeks in Detroit and not at all in Grand Rapids. Until going into this web site I was unaware of the earlier treatments of this excellent story, a commentary on my knowledge of motion pictures.

I recommended it to the QUITE right-wing "Focus on the Family" outfit which has a media watch. For a "pro-family" organisation they were astroundingly unaware of this gem. Everything is there, fine performances aside: An official wrong, dilemma about what to do, the decision to fight, the price the middle-class family pays, the internal doubts, and how everyone emerges changed for the better (maybe even the sole loser), except the principal who is essentially unmoved. I saw THE WINSLOW BOY twice, and just this morning over coffee recommended it to neighbours with children in their early 'teens. That a sophisticated yet simple film devoid of profanity and violence can do so poorly is a comment not on big bad "Hollywood," but on American culture.

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