Sunday, July 19, 2009

The Winslow Boy (1999)

Sir Robert Morton: Oh, you still pursue your feminist activities?
Catherine Winslow: Oh yes.
Sir Robert Morton: Pity. It's a lost cause.
Catherine Winslow: Oh, do you really think so, Sir Robert? How little you know about women. Good-bye. I doubt that we shall meet again.
Sir Robert Morton: Oh, do you really think so, Miss Winslow? How little you know about men.
~from David Mamet's The Winslow Boy (1999)
The Winslow Boy is a film which I have watched repeatedly with delight over the subtly nuanced dialog which surrounds the growing romance between Miss Catherine Winslow (Rebecca Pidgeon) and Sir Robert Morton (Jeremy Northam). What is amusing is that for all of Catherine's suffragette beliefs it is her femininity and fidelity to her family, including sacrifices at great cost to herself, that makes Sir Robert determined to champion the Winslow cause. He is obviously quite taken with her from the moment he glimpses her peering down at him from the ladies' gallery the House of Commons. Of course, the love story is merely a backdrop for the legal drama in which a young cadet is accused of stealing and is expelled from school. The Winslows are convinced of their boy's innocence and are ready to dedicate all of their resources to clearing his name.

According to Filmcritic:
Call me a fool. Winslow Boy ranks among Mamet’s best and is a refreshing change of pace. A period peace set in 1911 London, this is the story of 13-year old Ronnie Winslow, a naval prep school student who is expelled for stealing and cashing a five-shilling note. When Ronnie proclaims his innocence to the very end, the case becomes a cause celebre among the citizens of Britain – something of a former-day O.J. Simpson case, though, this time, the people side with the accused.

Mamet has layered this film, based on the stage play, with myriad levels of nuance, enriching the role of each member of the Winslow family to heights that Hollywood has never dreamed of. As Ronnie’s ultimate lawyer, Jeremy Northam does his best work ever, by far. Nigel Hawthorne is similarly fantastic as Ronnie’s dad, and as Ronnie himself, Edwards proves there are still a few young faces who can act.
I recently came across an article in Roman Christendom which tells the true story upon which the film was based. The real name of the family was Archer-Shee and they were Catholic, which I did not pick up in the film at all. So perhaps there was an element of religious prejudice in the accusation of the young cadet for a crime of which he was eventually cleared. Share


Julygirl said...

It is the dialogue in films such as this one (and the pen of the great David Mamet),that make so many of todays film fare appear shallow and lame.

Sorcha said...

I'm so happy to see another person appreciating The Winslow Boy! The information about the original family being Catholic sheds an interesting light on the movie; I'm gonna have to watch it again!

Anonymous said...

One of my favorite films!! How delightful to see it so well reviewed here...would that there were more such beautifully rendered pictures...

the booklady said...

Sounds like something I'd love! Thanks for the tip!

Anonymous said...

I too was happy to see this movie highlighted on your site. I stumbled upon it by accident a year ago and liked it very much - I've already requested it again from my library!

By the way, can you suggest a site (other than yours!) where movies like this (and/or books) are reviewed?

P.S. I started reading Trianon on my way to California for a 5-day retreat. I'm completely enjoying it!

elena maria vidal said...

Thank you, Elizabeth. Look on my sidebars and just click around under the categories of "Literary Links" and "Lesser Pleasures." All kinds of books and films talked about there!