34 user 3 critic

Goodnight, Mister Tom (1998)

A shy and quiet World War II evacuee is housed by a disgruntled old man, and they soon develop a close bond.



(adaptation), (novel)
4,554 ( 597)

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4 wins. See more awards »


Cast overview, first billed only:
Tom Oakley
Nick Robinson ...
William Beech
Mrs. Beech
Thomas Orange ...
Zacharias Wrench
William Armstrong ...
Dr. Stelton
Geoffrey Beevers ...
Mossie Smith ...
Mrs. Fletcher
Peter England ...
Michael Fletcher
Ivan Berry ...
George Fletcher
Harry Capehorn ...
Edward Fletcher
Merelina Kendall ...
Mrs. Holland
Mrs. Webster
John Cater ...
Dr. Little
Denyse Alexander ...
Mrs. Little
Avril Elgar ...
Mrs. Ford


We're in an English village shortly before Dunkirk. "Mr. Tom" Oakley still broods over the death of his wife and small son while he was away in the navy during WWI, and grief has made him a surly hermit. Now children evacuated from London are overwhelming volunteers to house them. Practically under protest, Mr. Tom takes in a painfully quiet 10-year-old, who gradually reveals big problems. William nightly wets the bed. He can't read or write, although he is intelligent and shows artistic talent. He constantly dreads going to hell. Scars cover his back. Mr. Tom soon realizes that his little boarder comes from a horribly abusive home, and determines to provide him a better one. All goes well until William's mother persuades him to return to London for a few days' visit. When Mr. Tom hears nothing from the boy after two weeks, he can endure the loneliness and worry no longer. Written by Paul Emmons <pemmons@voicenet.com>

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Drama | War

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Release Date:

30 May 1999 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Masterpiece Theatre: Goodnight Mister Tom  »

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Did You Know?


Based on the book, 'Goodnight Mister Tom' See more »


When Tom is asking the woman for clothes whilst repairing the roof. The guttering behind him is plastic, definitely not correct for the period. See more »


Featured in The Unforgettable John Thaw (2012) See more »

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User Reviews

A man and a boy flourish together
26 July 2002 | by (Philadelphia) – See all my reviews

This film rates a 9 of 10 or maybe even 10 from me, an accolade that I do not bestow generously. Anything is regrettable that makes one glad *not* to have read a book, but those whose acquaintance with the literary original has spoiled their appreciation of this production beg that very sentiment.

Their objections are as follows:

* Mr. Tom is not as they picture him in the book. (No details). Tough. John Thaw is a great actor, who should be allowed some scope in developing his character and should not be faulted if he doesn't happen to look alike. Jeez, some critics also objected to Daniel Radcliffe simply for not having green eyes like in the Harry Potter novels. What do you want, a talented actor who enjoys the author's own enthusiastic endorsement and brings a character to life, or a green-eyed duffer?

* Giving William his favorite breakfast, just once, and telling him what a beautiful baby he was made his mother too nice. I found the mother thoroughly horrifying, so much that an occasional calculated indulgence would be all the more insidious and discomfiting. We have to wonder what manipulative treachery she's up to now. Maybe she was trying confuse her son into suspecting even a gesture of kindness and pleasure as inevitably leading to misery. As for telling him how nice he had been-- when someone is out to tear all your self-esteem to shreds, observing that you used to be better makes it even worse. Make no mistake, we have here a movie mother from hell right down there with Angela Lansbury in The Manchurian Candidate. I can hardly imagine a more chilling woman. The silver lining in the cloud is that when Mr. Tom later comforts William by explaining that she must have been "very sick" and wartime conditions kept people from noticing or coming to help, he could more easily believe him.

* The film named Mr. Tom's own son John rather than William. Point well taken, I don't know why this would have been changed, although it is rather trivial. One might claim it as an improvement, or at least an appropriate concession to the medium. Mr. Tom always let William be himself, loved him for himself, and wanted him to know this-- hence he wouldn't want to suggest that William reminded him of, or was standing in for, another child. Books are able to explain what goes on in a character's mind, but films must confine themselves to what can be seen and heard.

One of my favorite scenes: Mr. Tom announces that he plans to go fishing the next day. William begs to go along, too, and Tom agrees with a sigh of feigned reluctance. Then we see him marching through town with a determined poker face, pretending to pretend that he is oblivious to a long retinue of boys and girls behind him: that they have nothing to do with the Old Grouch, they just happen to be going the same way in single file with their fishing poles. Several neighbor women on the sidewalk exchange amused winks with one another.

Someone dismissed the story as predictable. Huh? I can only quote the ten-year-old in another wonderful film, who was just as desperate as William for someone to care: "You might have been ordinary once, but you're not ordinary now. Not many unmarried men want to adopt." This was Jamie in "Second Best." Only a third comes to mind treating this situation with nearly as much sympathy and probity: the all-too-obscure "Marvin and Tige." When an industry so addicted to the predictable and formulaic as Hollywood fails to mine this vein any more than it has done to date, one must doubt that any such accusation applies.

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