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"The Winslow Boy" is a terrific old fashioned drama that is smartly done by
director David Mamet. The story was a compelling account of honor and the
fight for what is right no matter what the cost.
Ronnie Winslow (Guy Edwards) is expelled from the Naval College for allegedly stealing and cashing a postal order of seven shillings. He is resolute in his denial of the deed and his father Arthur Winslow (Nigel Hawthorne) risks everything the family owns to take up the legal battle to clear his son's name. It was generally an engaging story, although it bogged down in places when it became overly introspective. Too much time was spent on scenes devoted solely to the cost/benefit of the fight. Is it worth it? Yes. But is it really worth it? Yes. There were at least four such scenes when one would have sufficed. This is a minor flaw in an otherwise good script. This story was about a legal fight but oddly had no scenes in court. It would have benefited by a stirring closing argument by Sir Robert. However, the suspense of how the family received the news of the verdict was excellent.
The direction in this film is superb. The sets and costumes were wonderfully matched to the period. The photography was rich and full of complimentary colors. Mamet was meticulous in subtle details, such as the scene where a hanging piece, as evidenced by its outline, was obviously missing from the wall due to the costly fight for the boy's honor. Mamet uses the camera well to create impact with extreme close ups, like the close up of the wax seal on the letter from the school and another of a passage from the Bible.
He directs the actors adeptly with just the right mix of restrained passion and proper English demeanor typical of early 20th century England. The dialogue was delivered crisply with rapid fire exchanges, reminiscent of films made in the 40's and 50's, a style that has been all but lost in contemporary films. The portrayal of the subtle romantic tension between natural antagonists Sir Robert, the staunch conservative and Catherine Winslow, the crusading liberal, was marvelous.
The acting was fabulous. Jeremy Northam (Sir Robert Morton) had an excellent 1999 with this role and his role of Sir Robert Chiltern in "An Ideal Husband". He seems to be inspired by roles where his name is Sir Robert.
Rebecca Pidgeon reunites with Mamet again after "The Spanish Prisoner" and gives a strong performance of the phlegmatic liberal woman's suffragette who is caught in the maelstrom of her brother's fight. Her's was a difficult role because her character was a highly passionate crusader compelled to restraint due to the constraints of the etiquette of the times. She did a good job of portraying a sardonic disdain for such phoniness delivering simple courtesies with obvious contempt. Yet, she was often a little too deadpan about her own emotions.
Nigel Hawthorne gave a fine performance as the patriarch. He gave a good rendition of a proud and powerful man in decline as age, his infirmities and the legal fight took their toll on him.
Newcomer Guy Edwards was excellent as Ronnie Winslow. He was the picture of a proper British boy, but when confronted with the postal order, he would stare you right in the eyes, plant his heels and convince you he didn't do it and that he was telling the truth.
I gave this film a 9/10. It is yet another terrific British project that is a must see for the intelligent and refined viewer.
What a pleasure it is to see an adult film rated 'U' in the U.K. No foul
language, violence or trendy special effects, just superb acting and
wonderful dialogue. Based on Terence Rattigan's play, 'The Winslow Boy'
examines the social order in England just prior to the first World War when
the rule and moral
authority of the 'establishment' was unassailable. A young naval trainee is
expelled by the Admiralty for allegedly stealing a postal order. The
audacious decision by the boy's family to challenge the ruling causes a
Careful attention has been made to the fine detail in design of both sets and costume. Nigel Hawthorne is as reliable as ever in the role of the accused boy's father but in my book the best performances are by Gemma Jones as the mother and Jeremy Northam as the barrister. The film's theatrical origins are very obvious throughout with almost all the action taking place in the Winslow household. However this simply allows the viewer to concentrate on the outstanding performances of the entire cast. More like it please.
Here it is almost the end of October and this is still the best movie I have seen all year. It is better than the old B&W English film. Northam and Ms. Pidgeon are excellent and it startles one to see how well a virtually two-set stage play still sings on the screen. The feminist touch is perfect; the humor is perfect . . . and one still wonders if the kid did steal. This is a wonderful change of pace for David Mamet.
Dave Mamet, he of massively male play-cum-movies like Glenngarry Glen
and American Buffalo, is toying in the
melon patch of Merchant-Ivory and playwright Terence Rattigan in this
wonderful film. I may be the only one who thinks so but I believe the
director has the beginnings of a comedy here. I'll explain
Poor young Winslow, the great hope of a proud upper middle class family, has been sacked at Osbourne. His crime? Nothing as base as say dropping his "aye-chez." No, he's alleged to have stolen and forged a five pound postal money order in a fellow cadet's name. Enter Arthur, the proud father of this prodigy. This is a low blow to the Winslow Honor. Arthur shall fight this calumny if it means the family fortune. Nigel Hawthorne shows us the highs and lows of Winslow family pride, as Arthur, supported ably by Gemma Jones as his wife, Grace. Ronnie Winslow, his black sheep brother Dickie and the older Winslows then step mostly offstage. Young Ronnie is later seen being interrupted in the midst of a tennis game, having happily and readily adapted to a new school.
The family is teetering on the brink of insolvency. The action has shifted to the two characters I believe are really the focus of the film: Superbarrister Sir Robert Morton and Arthur's headstrong daughter Catherine Winslow. Ms. Winslow wears interesting sunglasses and her manner is brusque and unfeminine. Sir Robert is smitten instantly if you can grasp almost invisible movie subtext. The romance seems doomed at the couple's first meeting. Ms. Winslow remembers Sir Robert's earlier tiff with a suffragist group she supports. She believes that Sir Robert may not be able to save the family name. Sir Robert is taken aback- and I say, delighted- to be so grandly challenged from such an interesting quarter. It is cut and thrust between this unlikely pair for the rest of the film. Neither Sir Robert nor Catherine gives an inch.
An enormous and expensive public relations and advertising campaign is mounted to exonerate Young Winslow. Though the period of the film seems to be just before World War 1, the newspaper headlines and ad tactics appear similar to those employed today. Even the bloody Kaiser is evoked as a symbol of evil in the battle to prove the boy's innocence.
Mr and Mrs. Winslow are apparently too sensitive to appear in Court or stand in the gallery at Commons as Sir Robert conjures political business on poor Ronnie's behalf. Ms. Winslow does this instead. She brings news, bad or good, back to the Winslows at home. Meanwhile, the belt must be tightened, the purse grows lighter. Cheaper rations must suffice, the maid may be let go. Never mind. The great question is whether Sir Robert is making headway with Ms. Winslow. Does he know what he is doing? It is a very long way to first base here.
There is a sharp interrogation sequence in which Sir Robert questions Ronnie closely. Young Winslow makes mistakes that dismay his family in answering Sir Robert. Thats alright, the innocence of these mistakes has convinced Sir Robert the boy has been wrongly charged.
There is bad news and good news as the campaign ebbs and flows. The privations at home contrast with successes in court and commons. Ms. Winslow's assessment of the barrister has changed not a whit. Sir Robert is confident. Ms. Winslow is unconvinced. The audience has no idea where this is going. It is particularly difficult to read Catherine. She simply has no screen subtext. Some critics say actress Rebecca Pidgeon is not playing the part correctly. They believe Mamet's girlfriend is giving a bad performance here. She is not. It is for Sir Robert, played by the intelligent Jeremy Northam, to provide all the character shading necessary to untangle this web. He isn't interrogating a witness, he is watching Ms. Winslow's reaction to the witness, perhaps not necessarily with a view toward winning, but to simply get to the bottom of Catherine. Exonerating poor Ronnie is not Sir Robert's goal, its winning "Sis" over that matters. Except you can't quite be sure this is true until the film pays off; Not with just a single surprise, but two of them. There's a comedy brewing here but Mamet/Rattigan- I'm not sure who is the author of what here- never let any scene quite reach the level of comedy. You have to watch the interplay between Sir Robert's smirk and Ms. Winslow's drollery awhile, before you know it is not the verdict that interests, but whether they'll get on.
The previews of this picture made it very clear what the movie is about. A
young boy is (wrongfully?) accused of stealing and is tossed out of school.
The family then fights for his name and it goes to court in a notorious
trial. I went to see the movie based on this preview and had mentally
constructed the outlines of the picture. I had not seen the previous Winslow
I was wrong! I expected to see an action trial scene. I expected some lingering doubt about the guilt or innocence of the boy. I did not expect any romance. Instead, I witnessed the power of great writing. The acting was uniformly wonderful, with Nigel Hawthorne giving an unusually compelling performance. Jane Austen would have loved this film.
It is rare that a remake is in the league of the original, and while I still identify most with Margaret Leighton's brilliant performance in the 1948 original, Rebecca Pidgeon was excellent as well. This one left out a few of the extra elements (such as the burlesque hall) of the original; nevertheless, this version has magic of its own -- well worth seeing. But the original is also available on rental; If you liked the new one, rent the original and compare!
A young middle class English boy returns from a stuffy naval academy in
disgrace. He was accused of theft by the powers that be and was found
guilty. However, he protests his innocence and his family, who believes him,
sets off determined to challenge the verdict. In the end the Winslow boy
plays a rather small part in this narrative, as he is merely the catalyst
for interactions within a pre WW1 English family. As a portrait of social
history, we are amused at the restraint and civility of all, at a time when
people subscribed to convention and no one actually said anything directly
but intimated through verbal exchanges. Feelings were carefully hidden
behind words and true emotions were expressed in code.
The highlight of the film has got to be the bantering between the key players: the head of the household (Nigel Hawthorne), the barrister engaged to defend the boy (Jeremy Northam) and the sister of the boy (Rebecca Pidgeon). Each shows their flair for comic timing and are happily provided with a serviceable dialogue. Hawthorne is, as always, a wonderful delight. Northam is stunning as Sir Robert Morton: his every gesture, eye expressions so perfectly in tune with the character. I would have loved to have seen more of him on screen. Pidgeon does well with her character but the aloofness of the character made it difficult for us to empathize with her.
We live in an age where permissiveness is the order of the day; when not expressing your true feelings is called "repression"; where the media encourages individuals to reverberate their personal conflicts through the air waves. "The Winslow Boy" is a breath of fresh air to remind us that people in the old days did have feelings, did care but did not feel the need to act or speak on impulse.
It is refreshing to see a director and cast allowed to make a movie on talent, and a great script without having to resort to sex, violence or foul language. The Winslow Boy is an absorbing movie that proves "if you make it, they will come" - the theater was almost full when we went, a Monday afternoon at 3PM. I highly recommend this film to anyone eager to see Academy Award acting without the expected fill-ins of sex and language.
At first, I found this film to be static and wooden, like
a MASTERPIECE THEATER production. But gradually, you see Mamet is not
subverting the form, like he did in HOMICIDE, but rather playing against
so it's not hyped and obvious(like another Rattigan adaptation, SEPARATE
TABLES, was). Nigel Hawthorne, Rebecca Pidgeon, Gemma Jones, and Jeremy
Northam do reveal themselves, they just choose to do so in subtle terms.
And like many, I found the jousting between Northam and Pidgeon the most
interesting part of the film.
Another review suggests Mike Figgis made a more fluid Rattigan adaptation with THE BROWNING VERSION, and Mamet is not a good filmmaker. It is true this movie is more stage-bound than the Figgis film(except for the use of headlines), but I found it worked for this film. Again, while it isn't Mamet's best, I still enjoyed it.
If there was ever a movie for people who like the subtle nuances in acting
to tell what's going on beneath the surface story, The Winslow Boy is it.
It's interesting the way different members of the audience will probably
have different views on what the main point of the movie was. Was it the
actual theft of the money and whether young Ronnie Winslow is guilty or
Was it Arthur Winslow's (brilliantly played by Nigel Hawthorne) obsessive
and personalized fight to clear his son's name? Or was it Catherine
(perhaps Rebecca Pidgeon's best performance) and her various romantic
possibilities and how they affect her involvement in the case? People who
choose the theft itself may be the ones disappointed in the movie since
interest in the theft pretty much corresponds with Ronnie's. Halfway
he's moved on happily to another school and has practically forgotten
This is not one of the more immediately exciting dramas you'll see. There are no fireworks; all the characters are proper and restrained. But David Mamet films everything in a way which made me feel like I was another member of the Winslow household. A shy member who doesn't speak up and just observes the goings-on. ***1/2 out of ****
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