Compassionate, mature docu-drama with touching performances
I stumbled upon this film quite by accident (it was part of a DVD box set of Ealing Studios rarities), and I found that I couldn't stop watching. This is primarily the story of a retired diplomat named Mr. Phipps who decides to become a probation officer in post-war London. After an awkward period of adjustment, he starts to become emotionally invested in the various characters, old and young, under his care. Far from being jaded, the ex-diplomat finds himself taking risks and promising too much in a sincere desire to transform the lives of his clients. There are some vividly emotional performances here in a brilliant cast consisting of the older people (e.g. the other probation officers and the judge) and the younger people (in trouble with the law, yet capable of redemption if given the chance -- including a teenage Joan Collins in a star-making role). As the film was ending, I wished that the story could continue, and I could see how Mr. Phipps gets on. The story just feels authentic... how the probation officer's job can be so hectic and complex, a mix of disappointments, triumphs, and everything in between. I also loved the locations, glimpses into parts of working class 1950's London that we don't usually see on film.
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