The Winslow Boy (1999)

The Winslow Boy
Director: David Mamet
Writer: David Mamet
Based on: Terence Rattigan‘s play, which is in turn based on real events
Cast: Rebecca PidgeonJeremy Northam, Nigel HawthorneGuy Edwards, Colin Stinton, Matthew Pidgeon, Gemma Jones

When Ronnie (Guy Edwards) returns early from his school, it doesn’t take long for his family to find out that he has been accused of stealing and expelled. When Ronnie is adamant that he didn’t do it, his father Arthur (Nigel Hawthorne) and his sister Catherine (Rebecca Pidgeon) take up the fight to prove that he is innocent. They hire the famous lawyer Robert Morton (Jeremy Northam) to help, but the fight is more complicated, makes bigger waves and takes much longer than anyone expected.

The Winslow Boy is a nice film that wouldn’t stand out much if it weren’t for Rebecca Pidgeon and Jeremy Northam (and Jeremy Northam’s sexiness).


Wikipedia tells me that Catherine is an invention of poetic license, and well done for that. Usually the women get written out of history, not into it. And making Catherine a smart, enthusiastic suffragette made me applaud the entire thing even more (even if, as I recently discovered, the suffragette movement was racist and classist, apparently only fighting for votes for land-owning women*). It is only too bad that their way of increasing the tension between Catherine and Robert was to make him highly critical of suffrage in general (and as if Northam’s smolder wasn’t enough to get some tension going). Anyway, this is basically only a side plot and not very central to the story, but yay for positive representation of feminism.

But Catherine herself is central to the story. I thought that it would be much more about Ronnie, but once he sets up the plot and convinces Robert to take his case, Ronnie disappears and its all about Catherine and Robert (and a little bit about Arthur) fighting the good fight in court and bantering in private.

winslow_boy1I can imagine that with other leads the film could have become a little boring and a little thin. But Northam and Pidgeon give so much life and nuance to their characters that that just doesn’t happen.

But I do think that the film could have reached new heights if it had taken on a more serious subject matter and not such a trivial case (that certainly was very important for the family and it was commendable of them to stick to their guns so much but in the end it was about a minor theft). But at least it is a nice way to pass the time.

winslow_boy2Summarizing: Sweet and, good grief, Jeremy Northam.

*My source on this is QI but they are usually pretty diligent about their research.

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