There are films you see to escape reality. And there are films you see to escape escapist films. David Mamet's The Winslow Boy is the latter; a very sober adaptation of a 1940s Terence Rattigan play that dramatised a real-life law case that rocked Britain in 1910.The case revolved around the implied guilt of a young boy (Edwards) who is wrongfully expelled from his military school for a trivial reason - stealing a five-pound money order. His parents, notably his father (Hawthorne) decide to take the school to court in a financially ruinous exercise just to clear the family name, and the ensuing legal battle occupies the nation's interest in the front pages of the English papers for over a year.
Mamet's (House of Games, writer of The Untouchables) pre-WWI England is shown to be in a transitional phase in its march towards cultural enlightenment. This is the time of the Suffrogettes (women striving to get the vote), one of whom is the older sister (Pidgeon from The Spanish Prisoner and Mamet's real-life wife), who shares her father's obsession to have the young boy cleared.
Rights, the carrying of justice and the equality between the sexes here get their fair treatment by Mamet, who seems to be asking us to watch the film and be thankful for things we take for granted today. All very fine and noble, but the problem with this film is that Mamet lets the facts ruin a good story. The upper-class genius of Nigel Hawthorne (The Madness of King George) is not enough to carry the solid, yet low-key script beyond the haze of gentility to a hardened 21st century audience.But on the other hand, you can't point your finger at this film; it's just that it evokes no strong feelings from you whatsoever. ---Lachlan Gilbert