Tribute to South Africa’s first black president

Tribute to South Africa’s first black president

Robert Tanitch reviews the latest DVDs

MANDELA: LONG WALK TO FREEDOM (Video Vision Entertainment). 27 years in prison.  “As I walked out the door toward the gate that would lead to my freedom, I knew if I didn’t leave my bitterness and hatred behind, I’d still be in prison… Forgiveness liberates the soul. It removes fear.” Released shortly after Nelson Mandela death, Justin Chadwick’s film is a reverential tribute to a great man who was prepared to die for his ideal of a democratic and free society. His life, a complex story, would be better suited to an in-depth three part television series; but the film is sincere and there is a fine performance by Idris Elba, which has authority, dignity and courage. Naiomie Harris plays his second wife, Winnie, a firebrand.

THE RAILWAY MAN (Lionsgate).Hardly a year goes by when there isn’t something about the Holocaust. We talk a good deal less about what the Japanese did to their POWs in World War 2. Eric Lomax in his early twenties worked on the notorious Thai-Burma Railway.  He was tortured. Years later after the war has ended, still psychologically traumatised, he learns his torturer is still alive. He determines to kill him. A story of revenge becomes a story of forgiveness and reconciliation.  The horrendous scenes of torture (which include waterboarding) are difficult to watch. The older Lomax is played by Colin Firth and the younger by Jeremy Irvine, two nicely understated performances.

HOBSON’S CHOICE (StudioCanal). Classic Lancashire comedy directed by David Lean in 1954 stars John Mills as the master boot-maker who suddenly finds himself engaged to his boss’s eldest bossy daughter (Brenda de Banzie). Mills, comic and touching, looks like he has stepped out of a painting by J S Lowry. The sentimental realism is well acted by them both. Charles Laughton turns Hobson into a music hall drunk act. His performance, coarse and vulgar, is more farcical than tyrannical.

GREGORY’S GIRL (Second Sight). A teenage boy has a crush on a girl who plays football. James Forsyth’s low-budget 1981 Scottish film is about the agonies and embarrassments of being an adolescent. Aimed at anybody who has ever been an adolescent, the film was extremely popular; and it still, 33 years on, resonates with audiences. Gordon John Sinclair, with his long, long, long legs, a natural for physical comedy, is a gangling charmer and perfect casting.

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