The Winslow Boy

on April 30, 1999 by Annlee Ellingson
   Writer-director David Mamet breaks the golden rule of filmmaking here, revealing "The Winslow Boy's" roots as a Terence Rattigan stage play and telling more than showing. Mamet's brilliant dialogue makes up for this lack, however, tripping off the actors' tongues and adeptly layering the soundtrack with information.
   The Winslows arrive home from church, ready to celebrate their daughter Cate (Rebecca Pidgeon)'s marriage. Unfortunately, young Ronnie (Guy Edwards) has arrived home early from the Naval College, convicted of stealing a five-shilling postal note and expelled from school. He insists he's innocent, and the family embarks on an arduous crusade to prove it, hiring the undesirably conservative yet first-rate Sir Robert Morton (Jeremy Northam) as their counsel. Ultimately the Winslows sacrifice everything to "let right be done": their wealth, the elder son's education, their daughter's engagement.
   Yet we see little of the actual legal struggle. We hear about both the crime and the court case secondhand, witnessing only how it affects the family members in their own home: Mr. and Mrs. Winslow's strained relationship, Cate's dedication to the cause in the face of losing her lover, the coy kinship that develops between her and the anti-suffrage Sir Robert.
   Yet somehow, the agility and humor with which the characters interact and relay information keeps the viewer on his or her toes, despite the glaring omission of actual action. Mamet's script clips along at such a rate, in fact, that just as one dazzling phrase or turn has barely registered, he's amazing you with another.    Starring Nigel Hawthorne, Jeremy Northan and Rebecca Pidgeon. Written and directed by David Mamet. Produced by Sarah Green. An SPC release. Drama. Rated G. Running time: 110 min.
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