16 January 2010

My Boy Jack

I missed My Boy Jack when it was on PBS (boo) and quickly added it to my Netflix queue.  I'd heard good things about the film (Carey Mulligan and Daniel Radcliffe are in it) and I'd liked Rudyard Kipling's The Jungle Books and Just-So Stories as a child (colonial imperialist leanings aside).  I knew a little about the events surrounding the Kipling family in World War I.  I also knew this was originally a play by David Haig, who played Kipling both on stage and in this film, and that the film does not contain the last act of the play.

I took me four months to actually watch this movie because I knew it would be sad.  I sat down to watch it on a Saturday morning and just sobbed through the last 30 minutes of the film.  The script has a great deal of poignancy and relevance; the actors' performances were very good, particularly David Haig who has obviously had plenty of time to hone his performance of Rudyard Kipling.  Dan did very well but he has a very unique way of speaking and sometimes it breaks through the character he is playing; it's not detrimental now but it could be a problem in the future once the Harry Potter series is over and done with.  The best scene in the whole movie comes when a soldier from Jack's unit comes to tell the family what happened; the actors playing the Kiplings are so quiet throughout, silently crying, that the inerpolated flashbacks from the Battle of Loos carry that much more weight.
At the end of the film, Rudyard Kipling recites "My Boy Jack" to King George V, whose youngest son John had recently died of epilepsy, aged 13 (several years become compressed in the film):
“Have you news of my boy Jack?”
Not this tide.
“When d’you think that he’ll come back?”
Not with this wind blowing, and this tide.

“Has any one else had word of him?”
Not this tide.
For what is sunk will hardly swim,
Not with this wind blowing, and this tide.

“Oh, dear, what comfort can I find?”
None this tide,
Nor any tide,
Except he did not shame his kind —
Not even with that wind blowing, and that tide.

Then hold your head up all the more,
This tide,
And every tide;
Because he was the son you bore,
And gave to that wind blowing and that tide!
It's such a sad little poem but coming at the end of the movie, read orally, it becomes a heart-wrenching summary of the Kipling's search for their son.

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