Winnie Part I
"Young Winston" starts with the 23 year old Winston Churchill working as a war correspondent in India but whilst this proceeds to show us the young Winston during various wars it also takes us back to his childhood. We see how as a young boy he had to deal with punishment during school whilst being a disappointment to his father who in turn committed career suicide due to illness. Before leading us on to Winston's career in politics we also see how during war it was through moments of foolish bravery lead to him being known as a hero which many who were on the front line aside him would beg to differ.
That synopsis I know is two things; it is dry and disjointed but then in many ways that it how "Young Winston" comes across and it hurts to say it as not only are we talking a biopic about one of Britain's greatest figures but also a movie directed by the great and sadly late Lord Richard Attenborough. In fairness this was only Attenborough's second foray behind the lens and you can see some very clear issues, none more so than it feels incredibly episodic but it is why for me "Young Winston" is not the great movie which I was hoping to see.
Now I blame the British education system of the 80s for my distinct lack of historical knowledge and sadly they didn't even teach us about Churchill during history lessons, sucks I know. So I will say right now I am no expert on the life of Winston Churchill and knew nothing about his early years and hoped to learn something from watching "Young Winston". Well in one sense I did learn some things but it was a struggle as the movie is so incredibly dry, dramatizing episodes in the life of Winston Churchill but struggling to tell us about the real man behind the public persona. Yes it establishes a tough childhood and the disappointment of father who contracted venereal disease but you finish the movie feeling like you know nothing more about the real man and what drove him on just getting the episodes in his young life.
What is for certain is that whilst "Young Winston" has a variety of short comings, when it comes to the look and scale it excels. The opening scenes revolving around Churchill in India have that epic quality of a great war movie whilst the scenes back in Britain and the book filled walls of offices, the benches of Westminster and the hustle & bustle of the streets all are detailed and impressive. It almost as if Attenborough realised the script was episodic and lacked flow so instead tried to distract and impress the audience with the grandeur of the look and in many ways he succeeds.
Attenborough is aided by an impressive cast with countless familiar names and faces cropping up in supporting roles such as Robert Hardy and Jack Hawkins as pivotal headmasters in the young Winston's life. There is of course also Simon Ward as the twenty something Churchill and what Simon Ward delivers is a character which wanted to get somewhere in life and achieved it but more through accident than through careful planning such as the moments of unlikely bravery which made him a hero in India. But in truth the performance which grabs your attention is Robert Shaw who as Lord Randolph Churchill brings to life this man who was full of himself and an unloving father. It is the character which ends up grabbing your attention the most.
What this all boils down to is that "Young Winston" is an interesting movie purely because of it telling the life of the young Winston Churchill. But despite feeling every bit an epic production the episodic nature and dry passages makes it hard work to be entertained by and it leaves you feeling like you know nothing more about the real Winston Churchill.