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The Winslow Boy
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David Mamet's brilliant adaptation of the THE WINSLOW BOY is a rich and complex telling of the British classic, brought to life by a superior ensemble of talent. The story follows the lives of the Winslows, a banker's family living in turn-of-the-century London, as they fight to prove the innocenceof their youngest son accused of theft. After Sir Robert Morton, a respected lawyer, agrees to represent the boy, the case becomes a national spectacle and threatens to erode the family's bond. But, even as the legal circus engulfs the Winslows' lives, self-discovery and blossoming romance round out this period masterpiece filled with shimmering hope, wit and humanity.
Many thought The Winslow Boy was an odd choice of material for David Mamet. It was originally a Terence Rattigan play from 1946, taken from a true incident in England in 1908 about a boy, 13, discharged from Royal Naval College for allegedly stealing and cashing a five-shilling postal order. The boy's father, Arthur Winslow (Nigel Hawthorne), mounts a lengthy and expensive legal campaign to clear his boy's and by extension his own name, with the rallying cry, "Let right be done!" The resultant notoriety, the dwindling fortune of the Winslows, as well as the punishment this pressure exacts on them, form the surface action of the story. Yet underneath the staid manners of the dialogue there roils a whole emotional life hardly hinted at in the actors' faces. The famous lawyer engaged to defend the boy, Sir Robert Morton (Jeremy Northam), makes a suitable sparring partner for the Winslows' daughter, Catherine (Rebecca Pidgeon), a suffragette whose suitors are scared off by the family's legal battle. The unspoken romance between these two is more the point than whether right is done or not. Pidgeon brings the same inscrutable countenance that complicated her role in Mamet's previous film, The Spanish Prisoner, to this film--but here everybody seems to have it. As the differences between appearance and actuality reconcile themselves, Mamet builds bridges to his other works, House of Games and The Spanish Prisoner, for instance, for the ways in which dialogue is a cover for someone's true nature. The Winslow Boy is masterful in its quiet treatment of human mysteries. --Jim Gay
- Making-Of Featurette
- Trailer For The Spanish Prisoner
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Essentially, the premise is this: thirteen-year-old Ronnie Winslow comes home from the Naval Academy two weeks before the Christmas break, having been expelled for theft and forgery of another cadet's postal order, which he is accused of cashing. Ronnie's father, Arthur, asks him if he did what the school authorities say he did; Ronnie says, no. That is good enough for Arthur, who commits the family's financial resources, their social status, their emotional peace, and his own dwindling health to the search for vindication of his youngest child. Ronnie's mother, Grace, is loyal but strained by the sacrifices that must be made, and both his siblings must pay a price: elder brother Dickie must leave school and go to work, sister Catherine's engagement ends when her fiancé's father threatens to disown him if he marries into a controversial family like the Winslows. In the older man's opinion, Ronnie's denial of guilt "embarrasses" the Admiralty -- an extension of the Crown.
The case is eventually represented in Parliament by Sir Robert Morton, the foremost barrister of his day, who coolly and calmly challenges that point of view [here I paraphrase]: "You shall not side with the powerful against the weak...Whatever you do to the least of these, you do to Me." And the Crown responds with permission to sue for redress: "Let right be done."
No one is as unemotional as he, or she, seems in this gem of a film. I highly recommend it.
This is typically in the David Mamet style and I love that. Clipped and intelligent dialogue and a fascinating story line. The actors are all first class and it's a joy to watch them express emotions with just a look.