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Reviews & Ratings for
The Winslow Boy More at IMDbPro »

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Index 118 reviews in total 

A film of subtext

Author: gga
7 July 1999

David Mamet has done the absolute perfect film for any screenwriter: a whole film of subtext. Based on a play which in turn is based on fact, the film cannot help show its origins (the action mainly taking place only in the Winslow household), so it might be slightly boring to some. The beauty of this piece is, of course, the dialogue. Not so much for what is said, which is mostly irrelevant, but for what is not said and for how it is said. This is the key to following the movie and empathizing with the characters. While most actors are very correct in their roles, Jeremy Northam gives an Oscar worthy performance, which I hope will not be forgotten later this year. A really good alternative movie for those tired of endless chases.

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Author: Red"V"
28 June 1999

This "G" rated film is more engrossing than most "R" rated films oozing melodramatic mayhem.

Mamet has done it again: the hottest emotions simmer below the surface; the initial plot of the film is pretext for exploring the characters' most deep-seated conflicts.

Jeremy Northam plays a similar role in a another superbly crafted period piece, "An Ideal Husband." Fans of Rebecca Pidgeon and/or Mamet must see (if you haven't already) "The Spanish Prisoner."

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Author: Victor Bloom MD ( from United States
12 June 1999

David Denby of the New Yorker panned this film as an outmoded period piece. He was turned off by the tendency of the Brits to restrain the showing of emotion. Another commenter here said the same thing. To me the other side of the coin is more important. I am not sick and tired of period pieces of old England. They have a lot to teach us. Just because they don't wear their hearts on their sleeves, does not mean they are cold and distant. There is an element of powerful subtlety that most Americans don't understand and don't relate to. In comparison to these principled adults, we are a wild and crazy bunch, addicted to consumerism and the bottom line. And our teenagers are seriously testing limits, to the point of mass killings of their classmates. I pick restraint to melodrama and hysteria. Too bad Americans turn toward gratuitous sex and violence. In this movie, the plot, acting, costumes, set, photography, direction are all of the highest order. Viewers need to be sensitive to nuances and subtlety to enjoy this great film.

The film is based on a play which was based on a true happening, in which a historic, landmark decision was made in England, on the basis of examining the question of fairness when a young boy was dismissed from a military school for thievery and forgery. He said he was not guilty, but no one would believe him. The case hit the headlines and there was a dramatic turning point.

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Let Right Be Done

Author: lou-50 from Houston, Texas
10 June 1999

"The Winslow Boy" is a wonderfully acted film about British civility. Taken from the play by Terrence Rattigan and placed in the hands of the craftsman, David Mamet, this film evokes a time in British history when manners was everything, even to the point of denying a person their heart's desires. This is why the play was such a success in England when people craved for a justification for acting the way they did, betraying their own selves just so they could act proper and decent. But don't take "The Winslow Boy" as just another "The Remains of the Day". While that aspect of characters sublimating their powerful passions is common to both films, "The Winslow Boy" chooses to balance despair with hope and certain defeat with undeniable victory. Here are the particulars. A well to-do family, the Winslows, does something no one has dared before. Because the young master, Ronnie, has been expelled from Admiralty School for allegedly stealing and cashing a postal order, the family chooses to appeal by bringing a court case against the British government. In order to do that, it must first ask Parliament for the very right to sue. That's call civility but civility also means one must never side with the mighty against the weak. The case becomes a cause celebre to the point of preoccupying the government's time while other matters like that nasty thing in the Balkans is brewing. "The Winslow Boy" is intentionally without much dramatics. There is no musical score to speak of , the subtle intentions of the characters can be missed if you don't pay attention to the dialogue (a heavy hearted suitor tells his love that he will write down his proposal in a letter for her to think about even as they converse without ever mentioning to marry), and the most dramatic moment of this film takes place, not in a courtroom, but in the gentle foyer of a much comforting home, where even the triumph of the moment registers little more than a smile of relief. Mamet does all he can to make us live the British mannerly life and he uses the slow pace of this film to illustrate the enormity of time that must be spent to fight the government. It is that aspect of the film that might turn some people off for even though it is just under two hours, you feel you have been watching a lot longer. The flavor and mood of "The Winslow Boy" is captured very early when Arthur Winslow informs his older son, Dickie, in a less than amicable exchange that he doesn't approve of his son's romancing in their house, kissing and dancing in plain view with the music of the gramophone blaring away. It is a powerful reminder that in this household, in this proper society, you do not wear your heart on your sleeve. Further on, the trusted solicitor and family friend, Desmond, learns of the news from the house servant that Kate Winslow, the daughter, is about to be wedded to a military officer. He is particularly peeved because he has always loved Kate and would have wanted to hear this news from her but his anger is controlled because he is, frankly, civil. The highly touted lawyer, Sir Robert Morton, is hired to defend the schoolboy Ronnie but when he and Kate are together, there is a certain twinkle in their eyes for a longing neither one is willing to act out. Kate learns Morton has refused a high political offer in order to defend the case and tries mightily to tell Morton of her admiration and (read between the lines) love for such a sacrifice. She does it clumsily and Morton adds insult by blowing off her attempt. Not the kind of thing you expect in courtship. Mamet emphasizes two characters who have to struggle with their own integrity. The father Arthur literally gives up all his wealth to fight the government. It is a wonderful study of a man full of power and dignity at the beginning and one reduced to looking feeble and incoherent, ready for the nursing home, at the end. The second character study is Kate, who willingly gives up her life for woman's suffrage, to the point of not seeing the forest from the trees. Even as she is engaged to marry, she carries around a book titled 'Social Evil and Social Good' while her father admonishes her for not reading Lord Byron. Even as life around her is crumbling, she foregoes everything for a cause, finally swallowing her pride to request a small salary in order to help her family. "The Winslow Boy" is well acted with a wonderful ensemble starting with Nigel Hawthorne's Arthur to Rebecca Pidgeon as Kate to Jeremy Northam as Morton. You leave the theater thinking about a time when people acted according to convention and not to their heart. Now we live in a different age, an age of getting everything we can when we can get it, never mind who gets in our way. Maybe things really were better back then.

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Moving Actors without the Moving Acting

Author: Dued
7 June 1999

Having become a recent Mamet admirer of his films i.e. House of Games, The Spanish Prisoner, I would definitely say that "The Winslow Boy" did not have the questioning and constant surprises that the afore mentioned films have.

I would say that the film was very well cast, but the moving acting that these moving actors can give was not there.

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Gives new life to "G" ratings

Author: Skip-15 from Cape Cod
1 June 1999

It is a remarkable to spend an evening watching a "G" rated film that can be so enjoyable! Outstanding performances backed up by a story line that cries out for old fashioned values.

It is rare, nowadays, to have an entire theater of moviegoers show their appreciation for a film by their applause but that's what happened at the showing I attended.

Give us more like it, Mr. Mamet ... more!

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First-rate British drama about moral courage.

Author: ebb-2 from Brooklyn, New York
23 May 1999

"The Winslow Boy" has everything that is lacking in most movies these days. It has impeccable acting, a witty and sharply-honed screenplay by David Mamet, and an engrossing story. The boy in the title may or may not have stolen a trifling sum of money. However, his sister and his father fight in court for the family honor as if the child had been accused of murder. Is such a fight worth the notoriety that it brings the family, not to mention the financial and social sacrifices that the family suffers? It is up to the viewer to decide how far a person should go if he feels that his family honor and good name is at stake. All the performances in "The Winslow Boy" are outstanding. Go see it.

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Mamet explores new territory and triumphs!

Author: supdoc from Long Island, New York
23 May 1999

A highly satisfying, fact-based drama of 1910's media frenzy in England turns out to be hospitable territory for tough-talker Mamet, as he plumbs the depths of the legendary sang-froid of the British. Impeccably cast, with a star-making performance by Jeremy Northam and the best work to date of veteran actor Nigel Hawthorne.

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study in subtleties

Author: kpd1
20 May 1999

David Mamet has, as a writer, always been obsessed with minutiae. What are the far reaching effects of an insignificant action? What are the consequences to the smallest choice? He has expressed this through subjecting his audience to tedious repetition, forcing us therefore to study the differences between the similar. He has illustrated the nuances of the con, making the unimportant into the superbly important. Sometimes it works, other times it does not. For some people it works, for others it does not. But now Mamet has finally achieved what is inarguably his finest directorial effort to date. He unfolds his story delicately, but with such acute insight (he wrote the screenplay) so as to have no point become belabored. His dialogue is swift and efficient, as is his trademark, though without the bluster and profanity many have mistakenly come to expect. And soon one is wrapped up in a journey into the morals of man and modern society, and quite powerless to affect the outcome of that journey. While certainly suspenseful, it makes one understand what Joyce meant when he claimed all great art should satisfy more than urge.

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One of the year's best!

Author: Morris Thurston ( from Villa Park, California
1 May 1999

Even though it is only May 1, The Winslow Boy will certainly be in my top-5 movies at year-end. It is a Merchant/Ivory-type production that takes place in London shortly after the turn of the century. Jeremy Northam (Mr. Knightly in Emma) is a highly successful barrister who agrees to take on a case involving the young son of Nigel Hawthorne (The Madness of King George). The boy has been expelled from school for allegedly stealing a money order. Rebecca Pidgeon (Mamet's wife in real life) plays Hawthorne's 30-year-old, about-to-be-married, suffragette, daughter.

As it is adapted from a play, most of the scenes take place indoors, and the sets and costumes are spot-on. Although it concerns a legal action, there are no traditional courtroom scenes. The script is intelligently written and well performed. The actors recite their lines in typical Mamet style--direct, almost flat, but strangely explosive. The emotions are tightly restrained but only just below the surface and all the more focused because of it. Although it is a drama, it has enough satire and humor so that it never bogs down.

If you live in a two-bit town you might have to wait a week or two before this movie reaches you, as it is in limited release. If you live in a one-bit town it may never reach you. But see it even if you have to drive a few miles.

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