Wednesday, November 13, 2013

"Goodnight Mister Tom" with John Thaw (1998)

This is a truly wonderful film. During the Second World War, and the Nazi blitz of London, many of the children from all classes were evacuated to the country side in order to ensure their survival. William is one of those children. He has the misfortune of winding up; by default; in the home of “Mister Tom” Oakley, played by John Shaw with great depth and compassion.

Tom is an aging widower who has lost a wife and child during the First World War, when he was serving in the Royal Navy. He has spent his entire life grieving their loss, earning him a reputation around his village as a bitter man. When William is thrust upon him with no notice he at first rebels against the whole idea. But, with the war on he finds himself the victim of a mandatory order, and so must make the best of things.

As he struggles to get used to William’s presence he finds that the boy has been severely abused. He is also suffering from the effects of living in war torn London, with every noise frightening him. As Tom comes to know the boy better, they develop a trust with one another.

William’s mother recalls him to be with her in London, without official permission. Once she has the boy back with her she begins to exhibit the signs of religious fanaticism borne of the effects of the war and the arrival of another child, father unknown. She begins to beat William again, as well as neglect the baby girl, whom William has grown to love and tries to protect.

Meantime, back in the village, Tom has become lonely for the presence of the boy. It seems that they both really needed one another; each to escape their own demons. So, accordingly, Tom sets off for London to find the boy. What he discovers when he arrives shocks his sensibilities, and after being denied permission to take the boy back home, he kidnaps him, much to William’s delight.

But the day of reckoning comes and a struggle between the letter and the spirit of the law takes place. The winning side will decide William’s fate, as well as the future happiness of Mister Tom.

This is a beautifully crafted film, something the viewer has come to expect from the BBC productions and English cinema in general. This movie has been around since 1998, but its message never gets dated and the film remains as relevant now as it was when it was first released.

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