Thursday, February 29, 2024

“ONE LIFE”

THE STORY – Based on the book If It’s Not Impossible…: The Life of Sir Nicholas Winton by Barbara Winton, ONE LIFE tells the incredible, emotional, true story of Nicholas’ Nicky’ Winton, a young London broker who visits Prague in December 1938. In a race against time, Winton convinces Trevor Chadwick (Sharp) and Doreen Warriner of the British Committee for Refugees in Czechoslovakia to rescue hundreds of predominantly Jewish children before Nazi occupation closes the borders. Fifty years later, Nicky is haunted by the fate of the children he wasn’t able to bring to safety in England. It’s not until the BBC show “That’s Life!” re-introduces him to some of those he helped rescue that he finally begins to come to terms with the guilt and grief he carried – all the while skyrocketing from anonymity to a national hero.

THE CAST – Anthony Hopkins, Johnny Flynn, Helena Bonham Carter, Lena Olin, Alex Sharp, Romola Garai & Jonathan Pryce

THE TEAM – James Hawes (Director), Lucinda Coxcin & Nick Drake (Writers)

THE RUNNING TIME – 110 Minutes


Often, countless unsung heroes throughout history don’t receive the recognition they deserve. One of these heroes is the British humanitarian Sir. Nicholas Winton, who now has the spotlight, focused on his life with the new film “One Life.” Director James Hawes attempts to shine a light on who may be one of the more important Jewish figures at the arrival of World War II. While the film might sometimes come off as another conventional biopic, a stellar Anthony Hopkins performance helps to depict a beautiful human whose work makes for an emotionally moving story of hope and kindness.

“One Life,” tells the incredible true story of Sir Nicholas Winton, a British stockbroker who, in the late 1930s, assisted in evacuating hundreds of young Jewish children in Czechoslovakia from the growing threat of the Nazi regime. The film begins with an older Sir Winton (the great Sir Anthony Hopkins) who, during the 1980s, is now on the verge of becoming a grandfather. Winton struggles to move past certain moments of his life, and thanks to motivation from his wife, Grete (Lena Olin), he begins to clean out the past to make space for a new future. As he attempts to find a new home for belongings from his humanitarian accomplishments, he begins to look back at his past.

These flashback sequences comprise a large part of the film, with Johnny Flynn stepping in to embody the young Winton. Through these flashbacks, we see both sides of the story, fully showing Winton’s honorable and determined nature. As the younger version of Winton, Flynn might give his best performance yet. It’s admirable for Flynn to bring his own ideas to the character rather than attempt an impression of a young Hopkins, which significantly benefits the movie. His rapport with Helena Bonham Carter as Babi Winton (Winton’s mother) is also terrific and is one of the film’s best aspects. Whenever Carter is onscreen, she is a scene-stealer, but her screen time is limited. Unsurprisingly, Hopkins delivers the best performance out of the entire cast. “One Life” tends to spend more time in the past, but when Hopkins does come onscreen, he controls every frame. Mostly, it’s a quietly tender performance that builds to an emotional, tearful finale.

Hawes’ direction is relatively standard yet assured for a directorial debut. “One Life” is a fairly traditional British biopic, but it still manages to check all the right boxes to make a somewhat entertaining film. The flashbacks play out exactly as one might expect and never really become as engaging as Hawes and everyone else probably wished they’d be. The biggest issue with the film is that it feels like two separate films spliced together simultaneously. It wants to be a historical drama that operates on a larger level than its other half, a reflective, intimate drama about a man accepting his past and embracing his future. The present timeline with Hopkins is actually far more captivating — even though little transpires plot-wise — than the flashbacks.

Seeing Hopkins ruminate about his life and go on his journey to preserve his memories and the history of this selfless act of heroism is far more emotionally stirring than the Flynn-focused flashbacks. The film also withholds any genuine emotion till the “That’s Life!” sequence towards the end of the film. Audiences unfamiliar with how that event transpired are in for an emotional wallop, as it seems the film attempts to hoard its ability to move the audience for those scenes alone. It feels like a cheap move at times, but it undeniably works. This also gives Hopkins the best material out of the entire film, which more than translates into the performance he delivers. By the end, any flaws regarding “One Life” can be forgotten, as those “That’s Life!” scenes leave a lasting impression on the audience. It’s a shame that the rest of the film isn’t operating on that level regarding direction and writing. “One Life” isn’t trying to be some grand drama, and for that, it mainly accomplishes what it wants to achieve. This isn’t a movie that matches up to the great human whose story it tells, but that would always be a difficult feat to accomplish.

THE RECAP

THE GOOD - The performances by the entire cast — especially Anthony Hopkins, Johnny Flynn, and Helen Bonham Carter — are excellent. Although a bit emotionally manipulative, the ending works dividends and will leave a lasting impression.

THE BAD - While functional, its conventional standard of storytelling isn't entirely engaging throughout the film, as it's constantly struggling to find out what kind of film it wants to be.

THE OSCAR PROSPECTS - Best Supporting Actor

THE FINAL SCORE - 6/10

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Giovanni Lago
Giovanni Lago
Devoted believer in all things cinema and television. Awards Season obsessive and aspiring filmmaker.

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Latest Reviews

<b>THE GOOD - </b>The performances by the entire cast — especially Anthony Hopkins, Johnny Flynn, and Helen Bonham Carter — are excellent. Although a bit emotionally manipulative, the ending works dividends and will leave a lasting impression. <br><br> <b>THE BAD - </b>While functional, its conventional standard of storytelling isn't entirely engaging throughout the film, as it's constantly struggling to find out what kind of film it wants to be.<br><br> <b>THE OSCAR PROSPECTS - </b><a href="/oscar-predictions-best-supporting-actor/">Best Supporting Actor</a><br><br> <b>THE FINAL SCORE - </b>6/10<br><br>"ONE LIFE"