The Reel Review


In 1938, British stockbroker Nicholas Winton saved 669 child refugees in Prague from certain death by whisking them to freedom from Nazi-occupied Czechoslovakia just prior to the start of World War II. Winton kept the story secret for 50 years until a BBC show called That’s Life uncovered it in 1988. Anthony Hopkins stars in this war drama based on Barbara Winton’s 2014 book about her father, If It’s Not Impossible… The Life of Sir Nicholas Winton.

Johnny Flynn in One Life

It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out that the big climax of this film is going to be one massive tearjerker, and in that regard, One Life does not disappoint. It is a big, extremely emotional ugly cry. The screenplay itself, however, under the helm of television director James Hawes (Slow Horses, Penny Dreadful) in his feature film debut, is less Schindler’s List, and more sanitized, bland and clunky made-for-television fare. The flashbacks needed more heft.

Anthony Hopkins in One Life

Even so, both the compelling subject combined with Hopkins more than make up for the film’s shortcomings, illustrating the grief and other emotions that Winton had bottled up for decades. The film also features a solid ensemble cast – Winton doppelgänger Johnny Flynn (The Dig, Emma.) as the younger Winton, Helena Bonham Carter as his resourceful, take-charge mother Babette, Romola Garai (Suffragette, Atonement) as Winton’s Prague contact who played a major role in the rescue effort, and Lena Olin (Alias, Chocolat) as the older Winton’s wife, Grete. All of this makes One Life a poignant, must-see story.


Right: Nicholas Winton with one of his rescued refugee children in 1938, and left: Winton prior to his death in 2015.

• Sir Nicholas Winton died in his sleep on July 1, 2015 at the age 0f 106, 15 years after his wife Grete died at the age of 79. Prior to his death, Winton told the BBC, “I don’t think we’ve learned anything. The world today is in a more dangerous situation than it has ever been.”

• Helena Bonham Carter’s maternal grandfather, Eduardo Proper de Callejon, also rescued many Jews from the Holocaust by forging Spanish exit visas.

Helena Bonham Carter, Emma Thompson and Anthony Hopkins in 1992’s Howard’s End

• Anthony Hopkins and Helena Bonham Carter also both starred in the 1992 period romantic drama, Howard’s End.


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