TL;DR – A deeply emotional and confronting film that looks at the aftermath of trauma and how you can walk back from it.
Score – 5 out of 5 stars
Post-Credit Scene – There is no post-credit scene
There are those moments in life where we get to see the full depths of human cruelty and few moments have exemplified it more than the Holocaust. It was a moment where human depravity was industrialised and weaponised in the endeavour to exterminate an entire race. Today we explore a film that deals with the aftermath and trauma through the eyes of the children that survived it.
So to set the scene, we open in on a bus full of children as they make their way through the British countryside at night. The bus is full of children refugees rescued from Holocaust camps. One thousand children brought from the camps to Brittan and 300 of them came to Calgarth Estate on the shores of Lake Windermere. As they arrive, there is a real fear that they have swapped one camp of despair for another. Their families are likely all dead, and all of them have suffered travesties that make every dog a threat and food something you hide when you can. They only have funding for four months to help them with their trauma, which is not enough time given everything they had gone through.
This is a film that deals with the aftermath of trauma and what that does to a child. What happens when theirs is a world of starvation, torture, and depravity? Their nights are full of terrors, their days filled with the knowledge of what happened and the legacy it leaves. How do you go on when you survived by stealing bread from someone weaker than you? It is hard to watch the film and not become overwhelmed with grief.
It is hard for those who were not there to truly understand their pain, which made worse by many of the locals not even bothering to do that bare minimum. It is also hard to watch the external change while also realising that there is still significant damage lying just under the surface. With a short time frame, it feels like everything is stacked against them.
I have great respect for the actors that played the children in this film. To be able to portray that pain convincingly and with its wild swings is something that would be difficult for adult actors with years of experience. They are the emotional core of the film, and it only works as well as it does because they gave their all to it. There is this moment in the movie where everyone’s one hope gets snuffed out at once and with the cry that they had hoped that the Nazis had “just missed one” and it broke me.
There are many ways that the film uses to bring you into this world, the way it focuses in on the faces and expressions as they see what is coming. The way it starts overcast and dark and slowly lightens up throughout the film. One beneficial thing is the use of music, with Alex Baranowski’s score slicing through you at times and hitting you right in the heart.
In the end, do we recommend The Windermere Children? Absolutely. It is a hard film to watch at times, but I think it is a film that everyone needs to see. We don’t like engaging with trauma, but it has shaped so many lives that we need to know the effect it has. This is a powerful film, a hopeful film, a sombre film, and an optimistic film, that is a hard balance to get right, but they pull it off. It is also a good reminder in the 75th anniversary of the end of World War Two about the depravities we can do to one and another and how we should do everything in our power to stop them. If you liked The Windermere Children, I can also recommend Their Finest.
By Brian MacNamara: You can follow Brian on Twitter Here, when he’s not chatting about Movies and TV, he’ll be talking about International Relations, or the Solar System.
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Credits – All images were created by the cast, crew, and production companies of The Windermere Children
Directed by – Michael Samuels
Written by – Simon Block
Music by – Alex Baranowski
Cinematography by – Wojciech Szepel
Edited by – Victoria Boydell
Production/Distribution Companies – Wall to Wall, BBC, Warner Bros. Television Productions UK, Zweites Deutsches Fernsehen (ZDF), Northern Ireland Screen, Fremantle & Stan.
Starring – Thomas Kretschmann, Romola Garai, Iain Glen, Tim McInnerny, Marcel Sabat, Philipp Christopher, Anna Schumacher, Konstantin Frank, Kacper Swietek, Marek Wroblewski, Kuba Sprenger, Pascal Fischer, Anna Maciejewska, Tomasz Studzinski, Jakub Jankiewicz, Lukasz Zieba, Alicia Pokladecka, India Angerman, B.J. Hogg, Cal O’Driscoll, Colm McCready, Jonathan Cameron, Tara Cush, Ali White & Thomas Finnegan with Arek Hersh MBE, Chaim ‘ Harry’ Olmer, Sir Ben Helfgott, Schmuel ‘Sam’ Lasker & Icek ‘Ike’ Alterman
Rating – Australia: PG; Canada: PG; Germany: 6; New Zealand: PG; United Kingdom: U; United States: PG