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Second Best (1994) 1994

PG-13 CC
4.6 out of 5 stars (30) IMDb 7.2/10

Academy Award-winner and Golden Globe-nominee William Hurt ("Syriana," "The Village") stars in this touching story about a lonely, unmarried mail clerk.

Starring:
William Hurt, Nathan Yapp
Runtime:
1 hour, 45 minutes

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Product Details

Genres Drama
Director Chris Menges
Starring William Hurt, Nathan Yapp
Supporting actors Keith Allen, Chris Cleary Miles, Doris Irving, James Warrior, Jane Horrocks, Alfred Lynch, Rachel Freeman, Gus Troakes, Mossie Smith, Martin Troakes, Shaun Dingwall, Paul Wilson, Alan Cumming, Jake Owen, Sophie Dix, Prunella Scales, Jennifer Whitefoot, Jubal Bright
Studio Warner Bros.
MPAA rating PG-13 (Parents Strongly Cautioned)
Captions and subtitles English Details
Purchase rights Stream instantly Details
Format Amazon Video (streaming online video)

Other Formats

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By G P Padillo VINE VOICE on December 6, 2004
Format: VHS Tape Verified Purchase
As Graham Holt, Hurt gives one of his finest performances as a 40 something Welshman who's spent his entire life living with his parents in a tiny village. With his mother's recent passing and a mute, bedridden father, the lonely Graham wonders where his life has gone. An awkward, shy man Graham believes he has something to offer and having never really felt part of his parent's lives sets out to adopt a son and begin his own family.

Soon paired up with James, an emotionally disturbed 10 year old, Graham finds there are limits to be tested, and while we may place barriers around our lives if we are honest there can be no true borders around the heart.

This is a remarkable film and leaves me wondering why its director, Chris Menges (cinematographer for some of the most beautiful movies in the last quarter century) isn't directing more often. The performance he coaxes from young Chris Cleary Miles is never short of astonishing. James is a difficult role with wildly violent and sudden swings of mood and being and it could not have been easy for child; the character runs the gamut from innocent child to clever con and escape artist, survivalist, to obstinate manipulator. What is so painfully evident is that all the boy truly wants is a family but frightened - almost to death - of what that means.

Mr. Hurt and young Mr. Miles find their way through these challenging roles and, as captured, offer cinematic storytelling of the highest order - a world where gestures speak louder and truer than words.

That this movie hasn't yet made it onto DVD is incredible and an outrage. See if, by any means necessary.
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Format: VHS Tape
"Second Best" is not even on DVD. Few have heard of it. Its fans, judging from Amazon.com, are boy-lovers (in the erotic sense), though the film has virtually no sexual content. It's about a middle-aged postmaster (Graham) from Wales who feels the impulse to adopt a son (Jamie) and acts on it.

And WOW WOW WOW. WOW for director Chris Mendes' visuals: the lush Welsh countryside...a boy's breath fogging on a pane of glass as he waits for his prospective father... WOW for the quiet and patience of this movie, the humanism of it, which recalls 1970s films like "Whose Life Is It Anyways?" "Testament," "Breaking Away" and "Ordinary People."

WOW for Chris Cleary Miles turning in the best child acting I've ever seen, easily eclipsing Macaulay Culkin and Elijah Wood and even the talented Haley Joel Osmont. His demanding role as a troubled youth (which involved a lot of screen-time) asked him to be both sweet and manipulative, to make us believe he could fall either way--into goodness or evil, happiness or heartbreak. It asked him to run through quite a gamut of emotions (fear, mischief, sullenness, sadness, joy, impatience, rebellion, anger, affection, etc.) and each is portrayed with utter convincing naturalism.

WOW for William Hurt's performance, perhaps his finest. He is at his best in subtle intelligent humanist fare like "Kiss of the Spiderwoman," "The Doctor," and "Altered States"; I'm not convinced he plays as well in satire ("Broadcast News") or sci-fi ("Dune," "Lost in Space"). Hurt's Graham is someone we all know: The middle-aged single who's pleasant but a little eccentric (dweeby as the kids would say) and who has failed at love by feeling most women are "out of his league.
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By A Customer on October 21, 1999
Format: VHS Tape
William Hurt plays a grown man who still feels his parents, particularly his father didn't love him as they should have. He stays single and shy. Then he reaches out to a troubled boy, played by Chris Cleary Miles, and proceeds to adopt him. The adoption process is a bit ackward for him. The boy has serious mental problems and proves to be a challenge. This is a drama with funny and touching moments. It's too bad this movie wasn't a bigger hit.
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Format: VHS Tape
I like William Hurt. I will watch anything he does. This video was a $3.00 purchase only because of Hurt's name. He is outstanding as an actor in this difficult part. He plays the reclusive and quiet man with no social skills perfectly. My heart went out to him...and the troubled boy he is trying to adopt. The filming was excellent. The flashbacks and symbolism. This film didn't make the best seller list but it one that should have gotten a wider audience if just for the acting let alone the story.
If you have children, adopted or not, this movie makes you think and see life as a child retains memories.
Rent or buy this movie. It will make your heart glad.
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By A Customer on May 6, 1999
Format: VHS Tape
Graham Holt is a middle-aged bachelor Welsh bachelor who decides to adopt a child. He ends up with Jamie, a ten-year old boy whose mother committed suicide when he was three, and whose father is now in prison.
As Graham struggles to bond with his new son, he is forced to confront the memories of his own lonely childhood and to "compete" wtih Jamie's father, whom Jamie is convinced will return and claim him.
In a series of small steps, rather than big leaps, the two learn to trust and care for one another. Both William Hurt (Graham) and Chris Cleary Miles (Jamie) do a good job of conveying the difficulties and frustrations of reaching out to another human being, fearful all the while of rejection. Jane Horrocks as a saucy social worker, Prunella Scales as a no-nonsense one and John Hurt as Graham's irascible uncle add a light touch to what, at times, is an emotionally painful story. Keith Allen is memorable as Jamie's father, who finally does return to his boy, but not as we expect.
I've read David Cook's novel (now unfortunately out of print); this film is relatively faithful to it. Both deserve to be more widely known. At a time when more and more single people are adopting, I can't think of a more appropriate "re-definition" of family.
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