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Movie review: The Railway Man

Updated on February 2, 2014

There was a time when there was something romantic about train travel; all you have to do is watch 1945's Brief Encounter to understand why. But as anyone who's been sardined into the 8.25 on the Watford to Euston line can contest, there's little room for romance, or anything else, these days.

Although Colin Firth plays a self-confessed train enthusiast, and there is a romantic train journey or two, this film soon diverts onto a darker track in tone.

It's 1980 and although it's a time which could by no means be described as a golden age of travel, by train at any rate, there's still a lot of old stock running to keep train spotters happy. Eric (Firth) loves trains. But on a train journey he unexpectedly finds true love, in the shape of Patricia (Nicole Kidman).

Patricia accepts the fact that Eric is a tad on the eccentric side, but when they move in together, she realises that there's a deeper reason for his bouts of depression. After talking with his friends, Patricia learns more about Eric's past, in particular, his time as a POW held by the Japanese during the war.

The horrors that occurred then still haunt him 'til this day, and the only way to overcome them it seems, is to confront those nightmares face to face once again.

What starts off as a seemingly sweet romance story soon mutates into flashback city, as Firth's character, played by Jeremy Irvine as his younger self, is seen having to endure the atrocities that faced him and his fellow prisoners at the hands of the Japanese. Sadly, during these flashbacks, it all goes a little Tenko with men, playing out overly melodramatic.

This heavy-handedness comes from Australian director Jonathan Teplitzky and his lack of experience behind the camera, with this being only his fourth attempt at directing. He gets some solid performances from his cast though, which is what you would expect any way from a polished ensemble that includes Oscar winners such as Firth and Kidman, and the film certainly conveys both periods its set in with style.

But other than one poignant and touching scene, it does reek of a TV drama from the eighties. The scene in question is made ever more poignant by the fact that it's all based on true life events of those that happened to the real Eric Lomax, as revealed in his novel of the same name.

Perhaps if it were directed by someone with more experience under their belt with this kind of genre, The Railway Man would have carried more emotive weight, but as it stands, it's some way short of being first class.

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    • citywolf profile image

      Sarah Wolfe 4 years ago from Oregon

      Too bad, sounds like the story had some good potential and the leads are both solid actors.