The Winslow Boy (1999)
February 4, 2019 4:02 PM - Subscribe

Early 20th century England: while toasting his daughter Catherine's engagement, Arthur Winslow learns the royal naval academy expelled his 14-year-old son, Ronnie, for stealing five shillings. Father asks son if it is true; when the lad denies it, Arthur risks fortune, health, domestic peace, and Catherine's prospects to pursue justice.

New York Times: The Winslows' lean years begin when Ronnie arrives, reveals the theft and is asked by his father whether he is guilty. The inquiry is staged with enough cool understatement to lend a shade of ambiguity to Ronnie's denial, and to the family maneuverings that follow. By keeping his expert cast so carefully in check, Mamet trades in the possibility of high drama for a more quietly piercing approach. As the Winslows grow determined to defend Ronnie at all costs, the film fosters tension without ever making a histrionic move.

Roger Ebert: In a lesser film, we would be required to get involved in the defense of young Ronnie Winslow, and there would be a big courtroom scene and artificial suspense and an obligatory payoff. Mamet doesn't make films on automatic pilot, and Rattigan's play is not about who is right, but about how important it is to be right. There is a wonderful audacity in the way that the outcome of the case happens offscreen and is announced in an indirect manner. The real drama isn't about poor little Ronnie, but about the passions he has unleashed in his household--between his parents, and between his sister and her suitors, declared and undeclared.

posted by Fukiyama (3 comments total)
I love this movie, own a copy of it, and have seen it more times than I can count. Such fine performances and so many good lines. I love the verbal sparring and growing attraction between Catherine and Sir Robert Morton, and I always wish there was a sequel so I could see it come to fruition.

The family relationships are so nuanced. Arthur Winslow doesn't care about women's suffrage, but he does respect his daughter and the work she does for the cause, and he has an intellectual rapport with her that he doesn't have with his oldest son, Dickie. He also realizes over the course of the movie that he has underestimated Dickie. He tells him casually that he'll have to leave university and take a job in the bank where he works, expecting that his son, who hasn't been much of a student, won't care. Then he sees that Dickie does care quite a lot about having to leave university, but responds to a considerable disappointment and undertakes a job he doesn't want to do like a man, and he respects him for it.

At every single viewing it never fails to strike me as hilarious that when the Winslows win the case after all their considerable personal sacrifices, Ronnie's all, "Oh, that's good. I'm off to the movies now."

"What is the Bunny Hug?"
"It's like the Turkey Trot, only more dignified."
posted by orange swan at 4:23 PM on February 4, 2019 [3 favorites]

I own a copy of this movie too. I pull it out now and then when i am feeling like something Mamety. Catherine and Sir Robert are right up there for my ideal movie relationships. Mr. and Mrs. Winslow are excellent as well. Anything Gemma Jones is in benefits from her presence. In fact, the entire family is just excellent, right on down to Ronnie. All the parts are well cast, right down to the maid who is always sharing info others in the family would prefer kept hushed up for the moment.

People who watch this sort of movie and think nothing is happening confuse me. When well done, movies like this are brimming with activity. Always something more to see with each viewing.
posted by Fukiyama at 8:45 AM on February 5, 2019

Interestingly, it looks like the real-life boy this was based on was able, due to the clearing of his name, to go to war, where he was ultimately killed. I wonder how they felt about it, later in life.
posted by corb at 3:05 PM on February 5, 2019

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