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One Life

“I don't know what you're doing, but if you're doing what I think you're doing, I don't want to know.” Doreen Warriner (Romola Garai)

So, too, did the US and the rest of the world turn a blind eye to the beginning of the Holocaust in 1939. Nicky Winton (Anthony Hopkins), dubbed The British Schindler, was a stockbroker with Jewish roots who could not ignore the thousands of refugee children fleeing the incursion of Nazi Germany into Prague.

Bases on a true story, One Life celebrates Winton’s heroic effortson the eve of WWII to take those children under the Kindersport Project to London by trains that were increasingly fewer as the Nazis commandeered them to rid Europe of Jews. Hopkins’ Winton depicts a round-glasses, “ordinary” man as he calls himself, and other selfless saviors of the helpless families.

Yet it took extraordinary ingenuity and dogged determination to convince Brit authorities to issue documents required for each of the thousands of children to have passage from Czechoslovakia to unoccupied territories. The emphasis of this stirring docudrama is, like Zone of Interest, the activity outside the concentration camps, the world of brave bureaucracy that exalts the efforts to keep the vulnerable out of the ovens.

Consequently, the film lacks the horror factor in favor of realistically depicting the panic among unsung heroes themselves in danger of being transported to the camps. Director James Hawes jumps between Hopkins as elderly hero and his younger self, played deftly by Johnny Flynn as an increasingly effective savior of, at final count, 669 children.

The 1988 BBC magazine show, That’s Life, featured Winton and his bravery. Acknowledged, among other heroes, was his mother (Helena Bonham Carter), who effectively prodded the authorities in London to recognize the inhumanity in progress. Like that show, One Life prods us to remember the many heroes of WWII. The great number of survivors who attended the show was an indication of the enduring story still to be told about arguably the greatest testimony of man’s inhumanity to man—the Holocaust.

“I consider myself a European, an agnostic, and a socialist.” Winton gently characterized himself.


One Life

Director: James Hawes

Screenplay: Lucinda Coxon (The Danish Girl), Nick Drake Romulus, My Father)

Cast: Anthony Hopkins (Hitchcock)

Run Time: 1h 50m

Rating: PG

John DeSando, a Los Angeles Press Club first-place winner for National Entertainment Journalism, hosts NPR’s It’s Movie Time and Cinema Classics as well as podcasts Back Talk and Double Take (recently listed by Feedspot as two of the ten best NPR Movie Podcasts) out of WCBE 90.5 FM, Columbus, Ohio. Contact him at

John DeSando