By: Russ Matthews
World War II fascinates audiences despite the many tales that continue to pour out of this era.
The stark portrayal of evil and the yearning for hope is the fuel to keep these stories coming to theatres. What is astounding is that there are new stories each year that manage to capture viewers’ imagination and bring them back for more.
One Life depicts the work of Nicholas Winton (Sir Anthony Hopkins/Johnny Flynn), who went to visit Prague, Czechoslovakia on a whim to join some of his friends in the city. Yet, while he was there, he saw first hand the work of the Nazis as they commenced to occupy the country. In a last-minute decision, the young stockbroker decides to remain to assist the growing need of refugees who were being persecuted by Hitler’s army. The group’s work led to the evacuation of hundreds of Jewish children to England before the beginning of the war in 1939. This film shows the work in Czechoslovakia and how Winton would continue to share the story later in his life where he would eventually come in contact with many of those saved during the war.
Nicholas Winton was not the only man to risk his life for the sake of the children of Europe, but his determination to save their lives and have their stories told was legendary. Director James Hawes (Black Mirror) strikes a balance between the past and the present to show how the Kindertransport would go on to save 669 children before the beginning of the Second World War. Yet, it delves into the psychological toll this work took on the man who helped to organise this work. Anthony Hopkins is brilliant in portraying the older version of the humanitarian worker and how he continued to get the children’s story told. The Academy Award-winning actor proves he still has the command of the screen and can immerse himself in his character. Yet, Johnny Flynn shows how he is a talent worth watching for the future of cinema as he embodies the younger version of Nicholas Winton. Lena Olin, Romola Garai, Alex Sharp, and Helena Bonham Carter round out this outstanding cast to draw viewers into this fascinating and unforgettable journey that took decades to be told.
This triumph of a film is as delicate and caring in depicting this heart-breaking, yet encouraging story as it must have been to do the work of transporting these children across a continent infected by the Nazis. Between the performances and history, One Life manages to be one of the best of the year.
REEL DIALOGUE: One life for the sake of many
“‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbour as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” – Matthew 22:37-40
Nicholas Winton’s story carries us back and forth throughout history. His story shows how one life can affect scores of others and has been at the heart of great cinematic tales over the decades. This film rips open the wounds left by the feeling of not doing enough. It attempts to answer how each life decision has effects that ripple throughout time. This beautiful depiction of caring for others who cannot help themselves.
The question may be for us to figure out how we treat others throughout our lives. One Life is a reflection of the words of Jesus. ‘Love your neighbour as yourself.’
This sounds easy enough and straightforward, but for most people, it proves to be challenging to do. Why? Because the ability to practice loving our neighbours, friends, family, and enemies can only be based on the first part of his answer. Loving others can only truly be experienced by loving God first, because He first loved us. To be clear, people can love without God, but they can never understand the true meaning of love without His presence in their lives. It is only by God’s power that we truly can understand what it means to love our neighbour.
The answer to loving others comes directly from the love of God. They go hand in hand.
Article supplied with thanks to City Bible Forum.
All images: Movie stills
About the author: Russ Matthews is a film critic at City Bible Forum and Reel Dialogue. He has a passion for film and sparking spiritual conversations.