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This film will disappoint those looking for an action thriller. Instead , The Winslow Boy finds its thrills and its action within the minds and hearts of its characters. Mamet, accomplishing a feat reminiscent of Scorsese's the Age of Innocence, creates an adult film without sex or violence. Also like Scorsese, he fashions a film which remains true to his abiding concerns while ostensibly dealing with a theme and a period that is alien to his sensiblity. Mamet tells his story and develops his characters with a subtlety and richness that Merchant Ivory and their ilk ( please, let no-one mention the ludicrous Anthony Minghella!) can only envy. Nigel Hawthorne(who should have gotten an Oscar for The Madness of King George,) and Jeremy Northam ( one of the few good things about the over-rated Amistead), give Oscar-worthy performances. The scene where Hawthorne asks his son if he stole the note, and the scene when David Norton cross examines Ronnie, are among the most powerful ever put on the screen. The final exchange between the Winslow daughter and Morton is genuinely funny-and genuinely sexy. In fact , I will go so far as to predict that it will be a contender at Oscar time.
Can you make a courtroom drama with nary a cliched scene in the courtroom?
You can. Can you make a mystery "whodunit" without a cliched flashback
sequence showing us what REALLY happened? You can, and David Mamet has done
it. This brilliantly gentle movie is a true work of genius. I am not
familiar with the play on which it is based, nor of the other 3 previous
filmed versions, so I cannot tell how much of the brilliance is already in
the words and actions of the actors on stage. However, this movie pleased
and delighted me beyond my expectations.
If you told me that David Mamet were to make a film without any four-letter words, and that would be rated G, I would tell you you're crazy. Yet he's done it. For once he allows looks and glances to speak volumes instead of the usual foul language that overfilled his previous films to the point of satire.
Nigel Hawthorne is wonderful as always as the father of The Winslow Boy, who makes it his life's concern to clear his son's name of stealing and forgery after the lad is expelled from school. But Jeremy Northam is the surprising standout as the lawyer who takes the case. The scene where he grills the young boy about what really happened is Oscar-calibre. Jeremy is not only incredible looking, he can act!
Do yourself a favor and see this movie before it disappears from the screen!
Mamet's adaptation of "The Winslow Boy" is a marvelous mixture of classic
Mamet "speak" (the use of repeated words and phases and, in some instances,
repeated use of a character's name) and situations (Sir Robert Morton's
fellow MP's urging him to accept defeat on his motion for a Petition of
Right) with complete respect and preserving the integrity of Terence
Rattigan's story of establishment Edwardian England at war with itself, lit
with the pre-dawn of the First World War and the Modern
The setting of a middle class family confronted with the immensely difficult decision to not accept the "process", but buck the system and its inertia and do what they think right, not regardless of the cost, but, much more difficult, after careful consideration of the cost couldn't be more contemporary. And, although I am not naive enough to think that right will always be done, it was good to see that it is done every once in awhile. I came away reinvigorated and refreshed in the power and the rightness of ensuring to the best of my and all of our abilities that right is done.
I have been a fan of David Mamet's work ever since I saw the film
Glen Ross." His ear for dialogue and eye for human weakness have always
fascinated me. And though his films may seem rather different--he's
the elegant "The Spanish Prisoner" as well as the action/adventure "The
Edge"--all of them are about characters who play everything close to the
vest; their dialogue always hides their true motivations and
So it is really no surprise that Mamet chose to adapt Terence Rattigan's play "The Winslow Boy." It too is about characters who shroud their feelings and beliefs. But where this deviates from his previous works is that all, or at least most, of the characters are aware of the deception. Some of the scenes between Rebecca Pidgeon and Jeremy Northam are spoken almost in code. It's really quite amazing.
This is certainly David Mamet's finest piece to date, and he has become a truly excellent director. The acting is first rate, especially Jeremy Northam as famous barrister Sir Robert Morton. And Mamet's writing presence is felt throughout, as he no doubt altered some of the dialogue to suit his patented rapid-fire exchanges.
In a time when most of the movies out are special effects monstrosities that feel empty and lack any sense of humanity (though I admit that I really liked "The Mummy"), it is refreshing to find a film that is so vibrantly alive. I loved "The Winslow Boy," and I can't recommend it enough.
Oh, and if you're not smiling at the conclusion, which is one of the most satisfying in film history, then I'm fairly certain you've no heart at all.
A 1910 English period piece with excellent actors, acting, screenplay, etc. and Mamet at the helm, this story about doing the right thing; about the clockworks of an English family; about misdeed and trial; about stilted courtship; etc., and high marks from critics and viewers alike, "The Winslow Boy" can be easily recommended for everyone mature enough to understand the subject matter. Hence, the question should be...why not watch it?
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Two interesting things about this film. Mamet usually overdelivers. But with
his Vanya and this play, both adaptations, he explores subtle layering. What
the layering concerns is the second point. But the fashion of the layering
in this case is extreme understatement. One can see where Mamet is
experimenting to see how far he can go, and that's not too enjoyable, since
the mechanics of writing show. He was masterful with Vanya. Here, he tries
But the point of the play is very fine. Here we have yet another film about acting. The event which gets the wheel turning is a young boy who lies about his guilt. (His guilt is never really in doubt as the overwhelming evidence is presented...
Spoiler ahead! ...and he is acquitted in an OJ-like confabulation of legal tricks. This is why the British public was so upset.)
But never mind that the boy is acting. Or that his father is pretending to believe in the family's honor. Or never mind the other minor Victorian deceits (that the maid pretends to not know of her impending dismissal, the black sheep son pretends to not despise his father, or that the soldier pretends to love his fiance.)
No, this film is about the lawyer/lord. Jeremy Northam is perfect. He never believes in the boy's innocence. He is one artifice laid on top of another. He lies to his friend about a judgeship knowing the confidence will be shared with the woman he is toying with. His entire behavior in chambers and the house is an act. The last scene which is superficially lovely is actually an escalation of the artifice.
Northam pulls this off well. He lets us know at root he is Northam the actor, playing Mamet's lord, who is an elaboration of the original play's character, who in turn represented a very real person. But because that person was a Victorian, he himself was false. As with Vanya, the point of the play is to allow the actor to weave in and out of these layers. Northam is perfect, I say again.
One cannot get so excited about the female foil. When will directors ever learn not to direct the people they sleep with? She smiles well. How vapid in comparison to Northam's locomotive.
This is a well-made little movie with excellent performances all
around. It is not exactly a courtroom drama or a comedy of manners. It
shows how a crisis of honor in a family affects all its members and
even the maid.
The atmosphere brings one back to Britain just before the Great War. The costumes are great, but it is the acting and the dialogue which give this film life.
Ronnie, the youngest son, has been accused of stealing a five cent postage package. His father believes in his innocence and risks his health and his fortune to pursue justice. He hires Sir Jeremy Norton, the most renowned barrister in England to take the case.
Sir Jeremy seems like a cold fish, but appearances are deceiving. Watch The Winslow Boy for some top notch entertainment.
This is an adaptation of a play by David Mamet which he also directs.
Unusually it does not feature con artists, a favourite area that Mamet
likes to re-visit.
The film where a family wants to clear the name of their almost 14 year old boy who has been dismissed from the naval academy for stealing a postal order is all about performances, there is very little visual trickery but good use id made of sets, lighting, music and direction.
The actors are very much at the fore of the performance with Jeremy Northam as the Barrister delivering the goods as someone who believes in the boy's innocence but seems distant and uninvolved. In some cases he got the role of the barrister in the pre World War 2 era very much spot on. Its all about the law and proving your case.
Nigel Hawthorne does well as the father of the family who might be on the edge of financial ruin as he fights to clear his son's name. It might be viewed the Hawthorne would be too old to play a father of a 14 year old lad although his other children are older.
Rebecca Pidgeon who in other roles comes across as uninspired especially when she plays tough Americans is more comfortable here as the radical sister of the accused who also suffers loss as her engagement is broken because of the fight to clear her brother's name.
Its a brave undertaking to adapt a Rattigan play on the screen and Mamet has done very well in making the film watchable and highlighting the mores of the time.
A proud father goes to great lengths to defend his son's honor in this latest movie version of Terence Rattigan's play The Winslow Boy (itself based on the true story of George Archer-See), written and directed by David Mamet one of the most respected screenwriters working today. I am unfamiliar with the play or its several other adaptations so I can't compare, and I'll judge this film based solely on itself. What's unusual with The Winslow Boy is that it's a court movie which hardly spends any time actually in court, concentrating instead on how the case affects the lives of the Winslow family, and in particular the father Arthur (Nigel Hawthorne) and the daughter Catherine (Rebecca Pidgeon). As such the ultimate resolution of the Winslow case is actually of little importance to the movie, like a bit of a side story, something which may be quite off-putting to some viewers who'd perhaps find it boring and/or pointless. All in all, while The Winslow Boy isn't a masterpiece of epic proportions it's a very well-made solid little film who's greatest strength is probably the excellent performances all across the board.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
A drawing room, period, study of manners, domestic drama, if you will... The drama is admittedly light, centring on the impact of a teenage son's expulsion from naval college and the truth or otherwise of this occurrence. Strangely enough, you never get to learn whether the boy was actually guilty or not of his "crime" - although he gets off, it's never fully resolved and could be attributed to the superior advocacy of his attorney - sadly still a predilection in modern society. However the dramatic content could have been increased with some kind of courtroom climax, or confession, but now I'm arguing with the original play, hardly the fault of David Mamet or his actors. The Edwardian, pre War "golden - era" is nicely evoked with the big house, coterie of servants and upper - class manners of the family, although contemporary influences such as suffragetism (strongly) and the approaching war (mildly) are referred to. I'm not sure Mamet properly and fully brought home the "sensational" aspect of the Winslow case on the British public, even as I appreciated his subtlety in demonstrating this via newspaper hoardings, contemporary cartoons and the like. He does however marshall his acting troupe well. Nigel Hawthorne shines as the patriarch who sacrifices the wants and needs of his wider family for the sake of clearing his son's name. I didn't get the impression that it was the family name he was defending and genuinely believe it was for his youngest son's future which concerned him, which is as it should be. I'm not quite sure however that Hawthorne seems just too old to have fathered the boy. The rest of the cast play very well although some of their roles seem stereotypical and perhaps more could have been made of the interfamily tensions...but again that takes us back to Rattigan's source material. Mamet this time, quite rightly eschews all opportunity to contemporise the play and his cinematic devices are subtly reined in, no overlapping dialogue or sharp cross-cutting here. I liked the utilisation of the swinging garden gate at the start of the film, letting in the "bad" from outside, which recalled to mind J.B. Priestley's "An Inspector Calls". How often English dramatists seemed to write about the so called idyllic society of the upper classes breaking down...nothing lasts forever it seems. Anyway, in summary, a wordy piece, well shot, well played but ultimately probably best enjoyed as a stage play.
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