David Mamet has adapted Terence Rattigan's acclaimed 1946 play, distilling the drama of British decorum while gently applying his trademark style.
In 1912, a 13-year-old boy was expelled from the Royal Academy under the accusation that he stole a five-pound note. Convinced of his son's innocence, Arthur Winslow undertook a legal battle that challenged the sovereignty of the British throne — as well as his family's economic and social stability.
Based on this true story, Winslow Boy focuses on the toll the famous case took upon the family with a sensitive acuity. Of particular note is the relationship between Arthur's suffragette daughter, Catherine (Pidgeon) and the family's defense lawyer (Jeremy Northam). Catherine evokes the complexities of a radical who, despite her political beliefs, is adversely affected by her plummeting standing and marriageability.
Most of the action occurs in the Winslow's home, as outside actions and courtroom drama are recounted in a private setting. While this move was intended to give further insight into the intimate repercussions of a ruthlessly public wrangle, it would perhaps have been better suited to its original habitat: the stage. Overall, Winslow Boy proceeds with a stately drama and can easily be considered among Mamet's finest film achievements.