‘One Life’ movie review: The ever-dependable Anthony Hopkins drives this conventional biopic

Anthony Hopkins in ‘One Life’
| Photo Credit: Warner Bros.

In the year 1988, we follow the life of 79-year-old Nicholas Winton (portrayed by Anthony Hopkins), who shares a peaceful existence with his spouse, Grete (played by Lena Olin). As Grete departs to accompany their expectant daughter, Nicholas eagerly anticipates his new role as a grandfather. Grete encourages Nicholas to declutter their home, making room for their daughter and upcoming grandchild.

Amidst his tidying efforts, Nicholas stumbles upon old files that catapult us back to the year 1938, where we meet a younger Nicholas (portrayed by Johnny Flynn) on a trip to Prague, reuniting with his acquaintance, Martin Blake (played by Ziggy Heath). Nicholas is confronted with the dire conditions faced by families displaced by the Nazi regime in Germany and Austria, leaving him deeply disturbed. He encounters Doreen Warriner (played by Romola Garai), the leader of the BCRC’s Prague division.

Touched by the resilience of the children amidst adversity, Nicholas embarks on a mission to transport them to England, offering them a safe harbor with the hope of reuniting them with their families when the circumstances permit.

One Life (English)

Director: James Hawes

Cast: Anthony Hopkins, Helena Bonham Carter, Johnny Flynn, Lena Olin, Romola Garai, Alex Sharp, Jonathan Pryce

Runtime: 114 minutes

Storyline: Nicholas strives to save as many children as possible from Czechoslovakia before the Nazis fortify their borders, and decades later, he’s haunted by the memories of those he couldn’t rescue

Nicholas faces numerous bureaucratic obstacles, raises the necessary funds, and secures foster homes for the children. The hurdle is not finding willing families but rather the £50 per child required as a deposit. In his humanitarian efforts, he is assisted by his strong-willed mother, Babi (played by Helena Bonham Carter), herself a German Jewish emigrant, and also by Doreen and Trevor Chadwick (played by Alex Sharp) in Prague.

With the German annexation of Czechoslovakia, each moment becomes crucial in the effort to save as many children as possible before they are sent to labour camps with their families. The weight of those he could not save, particularly the tragedy of a train with 250 children being stopped on September 1, 1939, the day World War II commenced, burdens Nicholas with profound guilt.

Anthony Hopkins in ‘One Life’

Anthony Hopkins in ‘One Life’
| Photo Credit:
Warner Bros.

In contemporary times, Nicholas revisits a scrapbook that chronicles his activities, a keepsake he’d stowed in a bag from Trevor. Debating its fate, he consults with a local newspaper editor who shows marginal interest. Yet, a reunion with Martin (played by Jonathan Pryce), filled with laughter over past escapades, offers a glimmer of hope as Martin suggests a plan of action. An unexpected opportunity arises when the BBC invites Nicholas to the ‘That’s Life!’ program, setting the stage for an unforeseen revelation.

Drawn from Barbara Winton’s book on her father, ‘One Life’ is anchored by an impeccable set design and stellar performances, especially from the incomparable Hopkins. This feel-good true story is likely to evoke an emotional response, paying tribute to the good deeds of a man who bravely faced insurmountable challenges.

One Life is currently showing in theaters.

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