One Life: The BRWC Review

One Life: The BRWC Review

One Life: The BRWC Review. By Nick Boyd.

“One Life,” which stars Anthony Hopkins in 1988, is a moving and heartwarming account of a retired banker named Nicholas Winton who 50 years prior, worked with others to secretly transport Jewish children to safety via trains in Prague.  

As seen through flashbacks, the younger version of Winton is played by Johnny Flynn, an idealistic British man who has a close bond with his mom, played by Helena Bonham Carter.  Upon visiting Prague, he is horrified to discover the dire conditions that Jewish children and families find themselves in pre-WWII.  With Nazi Germany closing in, Winton realizes that he must act fast.  He joins the British Committee for Refugees from Czechoslovakia to get the process going. 



While British officials are initially skeptical of his plan, largely because of the cost and logistics involved, Winton is able to persuade those in charge to make it worth their while by emphasizing the urgency of the situation and by making detailed plans for the foster parents who would be there to take in the children.  (Due to the cost, only children were allowed to make the journey, while their parents had to stay behind.)  The suspense is palpable because no one knows when Nazi Germany will discover the operation.  So it becomes a matter of staying on top of every detail and trying to outsmart them.  (In the film, there are some harrowing close calls and obstacles.)

In his younger days, Winton is sympathetically portrayed by Flynn, who brings a charm and likability to the part.  Bonham Carter as the mom brings a fierce determination to her role, as she does whatever she can to help her son in what he is trying to accomplish.  The rapport between them is believable.  

In old age, Hopkins plays a married Winton, whose daughter is soon to have a child.  He still has a solid memory of his younger days.  Winton, though, still feels like there is unfinished business, something that needs to be taken care of, and still seems to carry deep remorse about the children he wasn’t able to save.  We see him rummaging through things and he comes across an old briefcase that may hold the answers.  Hopkins gives a reflective, subtle performance that is quietly powerful.  

The details of pre-WWII are vividly rendered and the flashbacks, flash-forwards are effectively done.  A perhaps forgotten chapter in history is recreated with much power.


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