One Life: Saving Jews During the Holocaust

Anthony Hopkins as Nicholas Winton in ONE LIFE. Courtesy of Bleecker Street.

One Life tells the story of how Sir Nicholas “Nicky” Winton played a role in saving many Jewish children during the Holocaust.

Bleecker Street is handling the American release. Unlike Warner Bros.’ handling of the UK release (more in my interview with James Hawes), the press and marketing materials do not hide the fact that the refugees are predominantly Jewish.

I’ve known about the Kindertransport for years. In fact, the Kindertransport would inspire Michael Bond to create Paddington Bear. Unlike previous documentaries–including an Oscar winner–the story places out as a narrative feature. All in all, the efforts would lead to the UK taking in 10,000 predominantly Jewish refugees between 1938-39. As far as the film goes, it focuses mainly on Winton’s efforts to save the Czechoslovakian refugees.

Interestingly, Winton’s parents were German Jews who moved to London and converted two years before his birth. The small Jewish world that it is, I don’t have to look far to see an in-law relationship in the larger family tree. He has not been named as a Righteous Among the Gentiles by Yad Vashem. This is presumably because he did not risk his life to do so. Regardless, he is a mentsch and a hero in my book.

If you’ve seen The U.S. and the Holocaust, you already know that the U.S. did not do enough to save Jews. In fact, there were efforts to bring in 20,000 children under 14. Unfortunately, the Wagner-Rogers Bill failed in Congress, owing to both anti-immigration and antisemitism and a filibuster threat from isolationist/Nazi apologist Senator Robert Rice Reynolds (D-NC).

Johnny Flynn as Young Nicholas Winton in ONE LIFE.
Johnny Flynn as Young Nicholas Winton in ONE LIFE. Courtesy of Bleecker Street.

The film adapts Barbara Winton’s book, If It’s Not Impossible…: The Life of Sir Nicholas Winton, for the screen. Winton’s story is truly incredible and to say that it gets emotional at times is not an understatement. The London broker (Johnny Flynn/Anthony Hopkins) was a true hero at a time when the world was in desperate need of heroes in 1938. Winton just happened to be in Prague just before the Nazis closed the borders. Regardless, he still had to convince both Trevor Chadwick (Alex Sharp) and Doreen Warriner (Romola Garai) of the British Committee for Refugees in Czechoslovakia. Doreen stayed behind and managed to escape just before it was too late to do so.

The film switches timelines between 1938 and 1988, when an older Winton is haunted by those he couldn’t rescue. I’m reminded of Oskar Schindler’s line in Schindler’s List about being upset that he couldn’t do more.  If my schedule plays out accordingly, I will have paid respect to late Schindler this morning at his Jerusalem gravesite. Winton had been previously honored in 2010 but the rest would receive honors for their efforts by the UK as British Heroes of the Holocaust in 2018. Anyway, the 1988 timeline leads up to Winton’s appearance on That’s Life! It would also bring him back in contact with people he previously rescued. The TV appearance would also would play a part in Winton coming to terms with any of his grief and guilt, not to mention no longer being an anonymous person.

You couldn’t blame Winton for his grief and guilt. The final train never left Prague because of the war breaking out. Only two children would survive. Knowing the horrors that took place in the camps, this would have an impact  on anyone.

Nicky Winton, like the rest of his colleagues, was a hero–we owe all of them a debt of gratitude. Like the previous documentaries, One Life makes sure that people will never forget Nicky Winton’s legacy.

DIRECTOR: James Hawes
SCREENWRITER: Lucinda Coxon & Nick Drake
CAST: Anthony Hopkins, Johnny Flynn, Lena Olin, Romola Garai, Alex Sharp, Marthe Keller, with Jonathan Pryce and Helena Bonham Carter

Bleecker Street will release One Life in theaters on March 15, 2024. Grade: 4/5

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Danielle Solzman

Danielle Solzman is native of Louisville, KY, and holds a BA in Public Relations from Northern Kentucky University and a MA in Media Communications from Webster University. She roots for her beloved Kentucky Wildcats, St. Louis Cardinals, Indianapolis Colts, and Boston Celtics. Living less than a mile away from Wrigley Field in Chicago, she is an active reader (sports/entertainment/history/biographies/select fiction) and involved with the Chicago improv scene. She also sees many movies and reviews them. She has previously written for Redbird Rants, Wildcat Blue Nation, and Hidden Remote/Flicksided. From April 2016 through May 2017, her film reviews can be found on Creators.