With this being one of the last, if not the last, performances by Nigel Hawthorne, my wife and I expected something really good. Moreover, other reviewers had generally rated the show with five stars. We enjoyed the story, to be sure, but giving it five stars may do an injustice to other outstanding British and other productions we've seen lately. Not least of these have been "North and South" and "Pride and Prejudice." Both the 1979 and 1995 renderings of the latter fall into a five star mode for us.
The story line revolves around the Winslow family, with Nigel Hawthorne as patriarch. He and his wife, played by Gemma Jones, have three offspring, a daughter and two sons. The younger son, Ronnie, gets into trouble at his Navy prep school when he's only 13 years old. A money order is stolen, forged, and cashed, and Ronnie is accused of the crime. After a one-sided review, Ronnie is expelled in disgrace and sent home. Mr. Winslow is outraged and spends the next several years of his life, along with a great share of the family fortune fighting for legal justice. The Winslow daughter, portrayed by Rebecca Pidgeon, is also drawn deeply into the case with little or no reward for her efforts.
Pacing of the show is noticeably slow. It plods along for the better part of 1 hour and 45 minutes with no hint of what will come. There is little wit and humor that you'd expect from a cast featuring Mr. Hawthorne. This is a dead serious drama all the way. One wonders if more background music would have helped. Also, as with other British productions, it may be advisable for we Americans to switch on subtitles. British idioms and sayings are not easy for us to pick up and the actors move on quickly with their dialogue.
Conclusion of the show is particularly bothersome as we are told that the case is eloquently argued in court by the hero, Sir Robert Morton, well played by Jeremy Northam. But we don't get to see any of the key proceedings and the long-sought victory is almost treated as an afterthought. To top it off, Sir Robert makes a vague comment to the Winslow daughter that might suggest a romantic follow-up on his part. But there the story ends abruptly. What could David Mamet, the writer and director, have been thinking? Did he run out of money? Or, maybe Mr. Hawthorne's failing health may have affected the production?
As to the "making of" featurette, it was skimpy to say the least. Yes, there were brief interviews with Mr. Mamet and Mr. Hawthorne, but very little else.
For those interested in period dramas, there are better choices, as noted above. For us, "The Winslow Boy" was good but not great and sadly does not fulfill its potential.