The Railway Man – Firth And Kidman Excel In A True Story Of Love And Trauma
The Railway Man is the true story of Eric Lomax, a British officer who has been captured by the Japanese in Singapore and sent to a Prisoner of War camp to work on the Thai-Burma railway. But the film also focuses primarily on the aftermath the effects of war had on Eric, and how his wife Patti plays a vital role in standing by him and helping him overcome these psychological terrors.
The narrative structure of the film starts off with the older Eric Lomax, played by Academy Award winner Colin Firth, meeting his wife Patti, played by Academy Award winner Nicole Kidman, and how Patti wants to find out what happened in the war so she can understand him and help him overcome his trauma. As Patti explores the past of Eric, we see flashbacks where we see a younger Eric Lomax, played by Jeremy Irvine, and what exactly happened to Eric to cause him to be deeply scarred by the experience.
The structure of the film works, we need to see both the effects the war had on Eric and what exactly caused him to be effected by the war, otherwise we wouldn’t get the whole sense of what Eric had to endure. It makes the whole journey of revenge and forgiveness even more impactful.
The Railway Man’s success is down to its talented cast. Colin Firth is fantastic and convincingly portrays a man who has been deeply affected by the experience in the prisoner of war camp. We first see Eric as a train enthusiast, someone who wouldn’t call himself a “trainspotter” but who is fascinated with designs and history. Then his life changes when he meets Patti on a train and their romance blossoms into marriage and all seems to be well and happy.
Colin Firth then goes deeper and reveals to the audience that there is more to Eric than meets the eye, and that really he suffers from psychological trauma and has some deep issues that he has to deal with. Nicole Kidman is brilliant as always, playing the strong wife who will do everything to bring her husband Eric back to normality. She does this by talking to Eric’s wartime friend Finlay, played by Stellan Skarsgård, and asking him what happened to Eric during the war.
Kidman represents the audience’s desire to want to uncover the traumatic experience Eric must have had and Kidman also represents the audiences loyalty to Eric and how we want to see her succeed to helping Eric overcome his traumas, also her English accent is on point.
Jeremy Irvine is also superb in this film, a far more convincing and powerful performance than in 2011’s War Horse, he captures the mannerisms of Colin Firth well but also brings his own interpretation of the character of Eric Lomax. During the scenes with Jeremy we understand what happened, but be warned that there are scenes of torture and it doesn’t shy away from what the Japanese did to Eric.
Irvine drew you into the film as he played a normal and genuinely nice guy, so to see such horrors being inflicted upon him is hard to watch because we care about his character. The performances deliver the emotional punch of the film and the rest of the cast also do a great job.
The Railway Man has a very cold feel, a very English feel to the film as well. This works to its advantage as it gives it a unique look and quality, but at the same time there could have been a bit more warmth to the film. Especially with how Eric and Patti meet, it was done well but a bit too quickly and it could have been paced better. I understand that the main focus of the film is Eric dealing with the past, but to get a deeper understanding of their love for each other we could have taken more time to see how they met and what attracted them to each other. The Railway Man is an amazing true story where themes of forgiveness, revenge and love are strongly explored.
Overall, an amazingly powerful and emotional film. Nicole, Colin and Jeremy all give amazing performances and the flashbacks work really well within the narrative structure of the film. A beautiful film.
The Railway Man is currently on general release across the North East