One Life movie poster

One Life

In theaters March 15, 2024

Rated

,

110 minutes

Directed by:

Starring: ,

Mention the name, Oskar Schindler, and you’re likely to elicit a reaction of familiarity, likely because of his story being told in Steven Spielberg’s award winning 1993 film Schindler’s List. Nicholas Winston’s name, on the other hand, is likely to be met with looks of bewilderment. Both men forever changed the world, not only for those of the Jewish faith, but for many others in Adolf Hitler’s purview in the late 1930’s. Now it’s time for Winston’s story to be told in Bleeker Street’s touching new film One Life.

The film opens with Nicholas Winter (Sir Anthony Hopkins) residing in Maidenhead, England. An elderly man in his late 80’s, Nicky, as he’s known by friends, lives with his wife Grete (Lena Olin) in a modest home with a pool. Now retired from his time as a stockbroker, One Life quickly establishes Winter as a good soul by showcasing his time raising money for various charities and collecting items to donate to a new care home being built in their town despite his home already being overrun by things he plans to donate or doesn’t need. Among those items is a briefcase that has been tucked away in a drawer for decades untouched – the memories too painful for what lives within the confines of it. Until one day when ridding his house of clutter, he decides to finally open up the briefcase and confront the past.

With the reveal of a scrapbook created during WWII, One Life then alternates between the late 1980’s and the late 1930’s, a time when Hitler was expanding his territory into Czechoslovakia, forcing many families to flee to Prague. Sadly for these families who arrived in Prague carrying all they could on their backs from their lost lives, they were met with harsh conditions, forced to live on the street and an impending winter.

When Winter (played by Johnny Flynn as a man just shy of 30 and single) steps away from his successful career to visit Prague to assist the British Committee for Refugees from Czechoslovakia, he is struck by the number of children impacted by the plight of so many families. It is then and there that he makes it his mission to rescue as many children as possible, temporarily placing them with families back in London where Hitler has no reach. The operation isn’t easy, but with the assistance from his mother, Babi (Helena Bonham Carter), back home and new found friends, Doreen (Romola Garai), Trevor (Alex Sharp), and Hana (Juliana Moska) in Prague, they manage to pull of a feat that remained a little known secret for nearly 50 years. Each played a pivotal role in convincing diplomats, securing visa, and transporting the children to safety all while attempting to avoid the Nazi party from discovering what they were doing to save children, many who were Jewish.

Nicholas’s story famously came to light in 1988 when the popular British show That’s Life featured his story on their TV program. The response was so overwhelming that the show brought Winter back again and surprised him – it’s a sight better to be seen than told. The recreation of these segments in the film will leave not one dry eye in the house.

Like most of the roles he plays, Anthony Hopkins is at the top of his game as an elder Nicholas Winter. Bearing a strong resemblance to the real life hero, Hopkins triumphantly portrays the weight that Winter carried most of his life for those he couldn’t save and the modesty that he embodied for those he did. Bonham Carter brings through Winter’s mother’s spirit as a woman not to be reckoned with while also trying to keep her son focused on what he achieved rather than what lives lost.

Today’s world could use a hero like Nicholas Winston. But, in the absence of such an individual, One Life is the next best thing, beautifully retelling how one selfless man forever changed thousands of lives. Perhaps it will encourage someone to step up and follow in his footsteps…

One Life is streaming now on the following services:
Movie Reelist Contributor: Mark Eaton
Mark is an entertainment junkie, spending much of his leisure time watching movies, TV, or listening to any and all genres of music. Most evenings, after finishing a day of work and hanging with his wife and kids, Mark can be found in an eternal battle with his DVR, trying to clear it before another 5-6 hours of shows are recorded the next day. Still reeling from his unpaid gig for the Detroit News where he was fired for being too cruel with his American Idol recaps, Mark is thrilled to be sharing his wicked sense of humor with Movie Reelists.

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