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  • Gareth Crook

One Life (2023) - 9/10

I’ve been on a bit of a spree of Jewish themed films of late, trying to inject a bit of hope in between the inevitable darkness. Going from Shoah to Yentl and The Zone of Interest to One Life, which I think will likely bridge the horror with some lasting positivity… hopefully. I say this, as like many, I’m aware of Nicolas Winton from his appearance on That’s Life! A stunning piece of television that will stick with anyone who remembers it being broadcast. I was very young though and I’m sure there’s more to the story than I recall. Winton was a man who saw what the Nazis were up to, whilst many were covering their eyes and was moved to do something. That something was the Kindertransport or more accurately an extension of it. One Life is based on his true story and it doesn’t shy on the details. We first meet an older Nicolas (Anthony Hopkins), doddering perhaps, slowing down a little but still motivated to help. Haunted by his past. You don’t unsee the things he’s seen. As he stares into a darkened window, we drift back to the 30s, where he’s played by Johnny Flynn, trying to convince his mother (Helena Bonham Carter) that it’s a good idea for him to travel to Czechoslovakia to help the refugees from the advancing Nazis. Flynn not only portrays Winton magnificently, he also feels perfectly in step with Hopkins. He’s a bit of a chameleon. Nicolas though isn’t on the surface. He’s a well to do stockbroker. A desk man. Head in paperwork type. The harsh Prague winter is not what he was prepared for, but he learns quickly that without help, these displaced people have been forgotten by the system. The British government is not helping Czechoslovakians. When Nicolas is quizzed as to his motives, what skin he has in the game. His response is gripping. Heartfelt, unwavering, determined and spine tingling. The scenes of people saying goodbye at train stations, children with numbers on cardboard around their necks are intercut with the bureaucracy that Nicolas, friends and his mother navigate with steely determination as a score of thick string and piano laden melancholy fills the score. It’s this drive/melancholy that defines Nicolas. The drive is his nature, the melancholy what he’s left with when there’s time think. It’s this time that dictates older Nicolas’s life. He realises there’s sadly still a lesson to be learnt. This timeline isn’t perhaps as fraught and terrifying, but it’s what lead to that TV moment, this film and Anthony Hopkins reducing me to tears. The pace is kept up by jumping between Hopkins and Flynn in the eras of his life, where although some things have changed, the focus hasn’t. It’s not an easy watch, amazing as it is what they’re doing, as Babi Winton (Bonham Carter) says “Nicky, you must know you can’t save them all”. What a world we live in. Where this happened and still the danger persists. Thank god for people like Nicolas Winton. A magnificent story brought about by the evil that people are capable of.


9/10


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