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one life

STARRING: anthony hopkins, johnny flynn, helena bonham carter, and romola garai

REVIEWER: lyall carter

Follows British humanitarian Nicholas Winton, who helped save hundreds of Central European children from the Nazis on the eve of World War II.

Many would have seen the clip of the real life Nicholas Winton appearing on the British TV show, That’s Life, which has done the rounds on social media over the last few years. After being brought to tears by that piece, you couldn’t help but wonder when the film of this man’s extraordinary life would be brought to the screen. And now, here it is, with none other than Sir Anthony Hopkins in the lead role. One Life is an extraordinary, slow burner of a film, with searing but understated performances from Hopkins and Flynn, and a clarion call to ordinary people everywhere to get involved in the world around them. 

One Life tells the inspiring true story of Sir Nicholas ‘Nicky’ Winton, whose unsung endeavours on the eve of World War II saved more than 600 children from their doom at the hands of the Nazis. Fifty years later, it’s 1988 and Nicky is haunted by the fate of the children he wasn’t able to help. And so it’s not until he’s surprised by the survivors on live television that he can accept that when facing devastating atrocities, saving even one life is a victory, and the British public learn the truth about the hero hidden in their midst.

One Life is a slow burner of a film, which builds with each narrative block built steadily brick by brick. It follows a well trodden path of the biopic of flashbacks to tell the story well, for it to really pack a punch. But here, what makes it stand out from the true life film crowd, is the story itself and the actors that help bring it to life. 

The striking thing about Nicholas Winton and those involved with him in saving these children from the horrors of war is in how ordinary everyone was. A lot of the ways in which they saved the children - quietly petitioning those in power, appealing for foster parents in newspaper adverts, collecting all the details of the children - weren’t particularly newsworthy or Instagramable. But together it meant the saving of many, many lives. With the shape of our world today, I couldn’t think of a more appropriate film for our world, to inspire us all, ordinary though we may be, to get involved, to do something extraordinary.

Sir Anthony Hopkins is perfection as Winton, superbly capturing the unassuming yet guilt stricken character with ease. There is a sense with Hopkins that you are encountering the real Winton himself. Utterly remarkable. And in the face of such a performance you could quite rightly imagine that the counterpart would be shown up. Not in the slightest; Johnny Flynn is magnificent, wonderfully capturing the youthful, earnestness of the character. 

One Life is an extraordinary, slow burner of a film, with searing but understated performances from Hopkins and Flynn, and a clarion call to ordinary people everywhere to get involved in the world around them.

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