Starring: Jim Broadbent, Samantha Morton, Andy Serkis
Director: Tom Hooper
Screenwriter: Peter Morgan
Francis Aungier Pakenham, count of Longford, was certainly one of Great Britain’s controversial figures. Member of the labour party, president of the House of Lords, important figure in the government for some years, and a devout catholic, Lord Longford has made himself known to the public through his excentric character and numerous social projects, especially his work with prisoner rehabilitation and his attempts to ban pornography.
“Longford”, an original HBO production, follows the man’s activity (played by Jim Broadbent) since 1985, particularly his efforts to obtain a pardon for Myra Hindley (Samantha Morton), sentenced to life in prison for the murder of several children alongside her boyfriend, Ian Brady (Andy Serkis), also serving a life sentence in the same prison. Though permanently discouraged by his wife, Elizabeth (Lindsay Duncan), his family, colegues and the press, Longford never gave up on Myra, his valiant efforts ultimately resulting in his exclusion from the House of Lords.
It can safely be said that Lord Longford was indeed an excentric person, but also a fascinating individual. The friendship he offered Myra was something quite scandalous at the time, but it also brings up issues of forgiveness even when faced with unspeakable atrocities, his own system of beliefs being built around the idea that no person is beyond forgiveness. The endeavour of saving someone like Myra seems like madness, but for him, it is his duty, as is any good catholic’s duty, to do all in his power to save lost souls.
However, at some point, Myra betrais this friendship by officially admiting her direct involvement in the murders, thus destroying Longfords reputation, and bringing him face to face with a crysis of faith. Forced to withdraw from the public eye, he finds strength in his beliefs once more and continues to work with prisoners until his death in 2001 at the age of 95.
The film is just as good as many other HBO productions, with an impressive array of awards and nominations including Golden Globes, Emmies, and BAFTA TV. The acting is fantastic, Broadbent evokes not just the physical appearance and gesturing of the real Longford, but also the profound feelings, innocence and complexity of a man who does not believe in absolute evil. Samantha Morton plays Myra with a subtle, icy strength, a strange duality, split between apparent innocence, mistery and dignity, embracing her guilt and punishment while defying any kind of help. Andy Serkis, as Myra’s murderous boyfriend, delivers a commanding performance, sinister and menacing without overacting and in very short appearances. Overall, it’s a wonderfull cast that make the film worth seeing all by themselves. The interactions between the characters are the salt and pepper of the film, a duel of hearts and human spirit
A lengthier film might have been been a plus, because it feels as if there might have been material here for more that just 90 minutes, but I have to take into account that it is a TV production, so compactness is a virtue I guess. It might have made a handsome mini-series, but there’s still enough depth and complexity to make it a unique experience.