Director: Tom Hooper
Screenwriter: Peter Morgan
Executive Producers: Andy Harries, Peter Morgan
Producer: Helen Flint
Cast: Jim Broadbent, Samantha Morton, Lindsay Duncan, Andy Serkis
SONY HD Cam
United Kingdom, 2006, 88 min.
*A drama inspired by real events, Longford spans 32 years in the life of Lord Longford, a religious man who treats everyone he meets with a childlike goodness and innocence. His life changes when he is summoned to a routine prison visit by Myra Hindley, the notorious accomplice in the "children murders," one of the most horrific and infamous crimes in British history. He embarks on a personal and philosophical journey that will test all his basic convictions.
The problem is that Longford believes every human being can be forgiven; in fact, that credo is the foundation of his long career as a scholar and philanthropist. When he meets Myra, with her intriguing history as the lover of convicted psychopath Ian Brady, her composed demeanor and plaintive plea for help, as she sits vulnerably in a prison guest hall, is more than he can resist.
Longford plays out in wonderfully crafted scenes of intense dialogue and calculated power plays. It sports a top-notch British cast with a particularly powerful performance by Jim Broadbent; in his hands, Lord Longford emerges as both profound and heartbreaking. The fascinating friendship between Myra and Longford becomes a metaphor for the vast gulf that lies between good and evil and inevitably poses the question: How can these completely opposite people even exist in the same world, let alone find common ground?
*Summary by John Cooper, SUNDANCE Film Programmer
Longford is a fascinating discourse on forgiveness and the implications of mercy. Jim Broadbent’s character, Lord Longford, is a fascinating man. He works so hard to redeem the murderer, Myra Hindley, played by Samantha Morton, that at times Longford is the only one who believes in her redemption. Longford always needs to be challenging something, as shown when he deviates from the Myra crusade to fight against the prevalent state of pornography in England. One of my favorite lines from this film comes from Longford as he is describing his career, “Only dead fish swim with the stream.” He has an extraordinary belief in redemption, and this case challenges the audience, asking if these murderers deserve forgiveness. Does it make Longford weak and gullible to believe so strongly that these criminals can become just? Is it fair for him to hold the murderers to strictly Christian standards of forgiveness? What about the victim’s families? Don’t they get some say in whether mercy is offered to those who have decimated their lives?
This is a film with numerous, fantastic characters and performances. Longford’s wife, Elizabeth, is played by Lindsay Duncan, an actress who was on Rome for both its seasons. She provides a wonderful foil for Longford. At first she is very critical of her husband’s belief in Myra. She offers up a very cold critique of Myra’s case, but as she learns more about the case and begins to see Myra in person, Elizabeth starts to question her beliefs. Unfortunately, her conversion leads to one of my big problems with the film. Longford and Elizabeth have a tape of Myra’s first police interview, yet they never listen to that tape until the ‘shock’ ending, when the greater scheme becomes clear. If Elizabeth really dove into this case, trying to learn all she could, listening to that tape would have been one of the very first things to do. All my problems were with that plot, with the mechanics of how the story unfolds. There are a couple big time jumps that really confused me. I figured out the first jump of 14 years, and I liked it, it made sense in the story of Longford’s life. The idea to use the radio interview as a framing device is an excellent one, the radio host’s interrogation echoes many of the questions the audience has. The second time jump of 10 years is only used to set up the finale and it felt superfluous and gimmicky. The ending really depends on how strongly you believe in Myra’s story, and I, for one, never believed in her innocence. So the thundering chorus and crestfallen expression on Longford’s face didn’t work for me, because the final confession is not nearly as surprising as the filmmakers believe it to be.There are 2 wonderful scenes that also showcase the actors who play the murderers. At one point, Longford sits in an interrogation room with one of the murderers, Ian Brady, played by Andy Serkis. There is a great verbal duel between the two. Serkis has never really impressed me, but he is stunning here. He is simultaneously charming, dangerous, and funny. In another scene, Samantha Morton’s Myra goes on a walk with Longford. They talk about what it means for her to have a normal like; walks in the park, children, etc. The tenor of the scene slowly turns dark as park-goers begin to recognize the famous murderer among them. Sound design and subtle audio cues play a big part in this scene, and Samantha Morton really sells this character’s dawning realization that she never can live a normal life. Finally, Jim Broadbent is the rock that this film stands upon. His portrayal of Longford is just as complicated and thorough as the man himself. There is no sense of grand-standing here, no actorly tics, Broadbent is this man and it is a stunning performance. If you enjoy exploring moral issues through film and watching exceptional acting, this is your film. Plot holes aside, this is a strong film about human mercy and intelligence, and a complicated man at the center of it.