The Winslow Boy (1999)

G   |    |  Drama, Romance


The Winslow Boy (1999) Poster

Following the theft of a postal-order, a fourteen-year old cadet is expelled from Naval College. To save the honour of the boy and his family, the pre-eminent barrister of the day is engaged to take on the might the Admiralty.


7.4/10
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  • The Winslow Boy (1999)
  • Jeremy Northam and Rebecca Pidgeon in The Winslow Boy (1999)
  • Jeremy Northam in The Winslow Boy (1999)
  • Jeremy Northam and Guy Edwards in The Winslow Boy (1999)
  • The Winslow Boy (1999)
  • Jeremy Northam in The Winslow Boy (1999)

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2 December 2001 | Philby-3
A matter of honour
Terence Rattigan's classic English play from the 1940s but set just before WW1 has been filmed at least five times. This 1999 version is by the American director David Mamet, with his wife Rebecca Pidgeon in a lead role as the Boy's sister Catherine, along with Nigel Hawthorne and Gemma Jones as the parents. The acting honours however truly belong to Jeremy Northam as their barrister, Sir Robert Morton, who finds himself strangely attracted to young Ms Winslow. He is the full QC-MP, urbane, smooth as silk (dammit he is a silk) and deeply cynical, scambling up the greasy pole at Westminster, using his legal skills as best he may. Yet he compromises his career by taking the case. It involves the absurdly trivial matter of the alleged theft of a five shilling postal order but by the time it's over Sir Robert and his clients have managed to put the Navy and half the government on trial. Northam make this almost unbelievable transformation seem not just likely but inevitable.

`The Winslow Boy' is of course based on a real case, the Archer-Shee affair, though Rattigan modified the story substantially. In particular the Archer-Shee's counsel, Edward Carson, the prosecutor of Oscar Wilde and raving anti-Irish home ruler, never became personally involved with the family. He was made a law lord (top British judge) shortly after so his quite spectacular career was not affected by his involvement in the Archer-Shee case. Yet the most interesting thing in the film is the entirely ficticious relationship between Sir Robert, the conventional male supremacist and Catherine, the dedicated suffragette. In the end sex triumphs over politics, as it so often does. A pity it did not do so in the case of Lord Carson.

The Boy himself has a wonderful line in English Public School patter (I'm sure an American audience would need sub-titles). Sadly the real Boy was killed in WW1, which also killed the society to whom the Archer-Shee case was so important.

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