I watched one of my favorite period films last night, The Winslow Boy (1999 version). It’s a quiet film directed by David Mamet, based on a play by Terrence Rattigan. The plot centers around the title character, Ronnie Winslow, who is suddenly expelled from his naval bording school for supposedly stealing a money order. His father, Arthur Winslow (Nigel Hawthorne), and Ronnie’s older sister, Catherine (Rebecca Pidgeon), are both convinced that the boy is innocent and has not been given a fair trial by the school administration and military higher-ups. As a result, Arthur and Catherine launch a crusade against the Lords of the Admiralty, pettitioning for a new trial. They hire Sir Robert Morton (Jeremy Northam), a famous barrister, in order to speak for them in Parliament. The case becomes a national sensation, though it exacts a high cost, both monetary and emotional, on the Winslow family.
The acting, although sometimes uneven, is anchored by wonderful performances from Hawthorne, Pidgeon, Northam, and Gemma Jones (as Mrs. Winslow). The boy who plays Ronnie, Guy Edwards, is a bit questionable, as is Matthew Pidgeon (Rebecca’s brother) who plays an older brother, Dickie. The script actually follows Rattigan’s original play, which I have read, very closely. It’s just “Mamet-ified” with the dialogue sped up. (So everyone does talk in that fake, ridiculous way Mamet likes, but we don’t have the extreme swearing common in some of his other work. ) It feels a lot like a filmed play, rather than a film adaptation of a play.
Surprisingly, for a modest film, the costumes are also quite good. Understated, but good. The movie takes place around 1912, and Rebecca Pidgeon has some lovely suits and dresses. There is one I would like to make soon, a striped number she wears in the final scenes. I’ve only got these few pictures of it. But I think it’s easy enough in shape to work out. I may have to try to get screenshots from my DVD copy.