The Winslow Boy (1999)
David Mamet has built his reputation of
The family-friendly rating can be, at least partially, explained by the film’s setting. The story brings viewer to the world where four-letter words weren’t supposed to exist – upper-to-middle class
THE WINSLOW BOY is based on real events that served as inspiration for 1946 stage play by Terence Rattigan and four subsequent screen adaptations. In this version Mamet clearly points to the stage origin of the film – the most important event, which has sparked the drama, happens off-screen; same goes for the entire legal procedure. The audience is therefore left only with the effects of those events on the characters. And this deprives the film of the main dramatic conflict. Winslows are portrayed as loving and functioning family - embodiment of all the social virtues of Edwardian England. Even the encroaching modernity in the form of Catherine’s feminism is harmless.
In many films this could be a major problem, but Mamet saw it as a challenge. He manages to keep the audience’s attention with excellent dialogue. He also paid great attention to period details – despite being shot in Massachussetts, THE WINSLOW BOY perfectly recreates Edwardian England. This could be attributed to Alaric Jans’ music score which sounds very much like the works of Edward Elgar. But the film’s greatest asset is acting. Dependable cast, which includes names like Sir Nigel Hawthorne, Jeremy Northam and Mamet’s wife Rebecca Pidgeon, compensates for the lack of film’s dramatic potential. THE WINSLOW BOY might be triumph of style over substance, but sometimes, like in this case, style is what separates good from bad films.
RATING: 6/10 (++)