Previously filmed by Anthony Asquith in 1948, Terence Rattigan's play - about the trials and tribulations of an upper middle class Edwardian family determined to clear the name of a young son expelled from Naval Academy for stealing a postal order - isn't the kind of material you'd expect David Mamet to adapt and direct. That said, it's an elegant, engrossing film and surprisingly faithful. It could, of course, be seen as just another costume drama, but Mamet's decision not to open it out - it almost all takes place within the confines of the Winslow household - is wise. Kept offscreen, the unquestioning adherence to the status quo of the naval and political establishments is as frustratingly vague and intractable as it is for the family, just as the media fuss about their predicament is seen literally to hem it in. Mamet never tips the balance. Young Ronnie's innocence remains open to question, his father's fight is as much a matter of stubborn pride as a petition for justice, and the economic and human cost of his quest is all too evident. As ever with such films, much rests on the performances, and Northam (as barrister Sir Robert Morton), Jones (Grace Winslow), and Rebecca and Matthew Pidgeon (as the suffragette daughter and feckless elder son) do the play proud. Again, however, Nigel Hawthorne steals the laurels, his understatement investing the driven patriarch with complexity and emotional depth.
Cast and crew