One Life

DRAMA; 1hr 50min

STARRING: Anthony Hopkins, Johnny Flynn, Helena Bonham Carter, Lena Olin

“Save one life, save the world”: Hopkins

Heroism is humility in action in director James Hawes’s laudatory, true-life story of one man’s inability to look away. That man is Jewish stockbroker and upstanding Brit Nicholas (“Nicky”) Winton (Flynn as a young man, Hopkins in later life), who, while visiting Prague in 1938, “cannot unsee” the plight of Jewish children under threat from the upcoming Nazi occupation of Czechoslovakia.


Nicky’s Oskar Schindler–esque mission, to save as many waifs and strays as possible, will result in the Kindertransport rescue and delivery by rail to British foster parents of 669 young refugees, reconfiguring their benefactor’s life along with their own. It’s punishing, uncertain, pen-pushing work, into which Nicky, his pocket-rocket mother, Babi (Bonham Carter), and a committee of on-site kindred souls dive with the can-do conviction of desperate times. Even so, at home in Maidenhead with wife Grete (Olin) five decades later, Nicky continues to agonise over the children who slipped through his safety net in the melee of war.


Working from Lucinda Coxon and Nick Drake’s screenplay, based on the 2014 book If It’s Not Impossible… The Life of Sir Nicholas Winton by Nicky’s daughter Barbara, Hawes isn’t overly concerned with colouring outside standard narrative lines. Yet while his A-B-C treatment comes down with a case of the plods, the caring presence of a self-deprecating Hopkins is what everyone will take with them, especially when topped off by a soul-stirring catharsis that finally sets Nicky free.