Synopsis by Mark Deming
Playwright and filmmaker David Mamet, best known for gritty, emotionally powerful dramas such as American Buffalo, Glengarry Glen Ross and Oleanna, approaches something different with this project, a screen adaptation of Terrence Rattigan's play The Winslow Boy, which was previously filmed in 1948. Set in England in 1912 (and based on an actual court case), the story begins with the Winslow family at a tense and trying moment. Arthur Winslow (Nigel Hawthorne) is making final preparations for a dinner to seal the engagement between his daughter Catherine (Rebecca Pidgeon) and John Watherstone (Aden Gillett). Catherine herself has been a subject of no small tension in the family, given her outspoken support of the controversial cause of women's suffrage. However, the meeting between Arthur and John goes well, and the family and guests are toasting the upcoming marriage when Arthur discovers that his youngest son Ronnie (Guy Edwards) is unexpectedly home from the Naval College at Osbourne. It seems Ronnie was accused of stealing a five shilling postal note from one of his classmates and was expelled as a result. Ronnie proclaims his innocence and his father believes him -- enough so that he demands an apology from the College. When the college refuses to reinstate Ronnie, Arthur decides to take the matter to court. His councilor, Sir Robert Morton (Jeremy Northam), informs him that the Naval College is a representative of the Admiralty and the Crown, and as such British law presumes they are infallible and above question; their judgement can be legally questioned only with the permission of the Attorney General. Arthur insists on taking the matter before Parliament to decide if his suit can be brought forward, and the case begins to split the family's foundations. Catherine is upset with her father for hiring a lawyer who opposes a woman's right to vote, John's father threatens to stop the engagement if Arthur does not drop the matter, and Arthur's wife Grace (Gemma Jones) begins to wonder if the real issue is justice or a father's stubborn and foolish pride. The Winslow Boy was filmed in England with a primarily British cast (the most notable exception being Rebecca Pidgeon, who happens to be Mamet's wife); Neil North, who plays the First Lord of the Admiralty, played Ronnie in the first film version of the story.
father, accusation, British, campaign, court [law], daughter, expulsion, family, lawyer, Naval-Academy, son, engagement
High Artistic Quality