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Fun Friday–My Boy Jack on Masterpiece Classics

Friday, April 18, 2008

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I finally received my press-preview copies of the remaining Masterpiece Classics, so I eagerly sat down and watched My Boy Jack last night, which airs on PBS this Sunday.

“Have you news of my boy Jack? Not this tide.”
— Rudyard Kipling, “My Boy Jack”

In 1914 England, patriotism is high in the early days of WWI, and writer Rudyard Kipling (David Haigh, Four Weddings and a Funeral) is one of its most eloquent and passionate voices. John “Jack,” (Daniel Radcliffe, Harry Potter films), Kipling’s only son, is underage, hopelessly myopic, and eager to join the war effort. Kipling’s outspoken American wife Carrie (Kim Cattrall, Sex and the City) remains more sanguine on the course of the war, and the fate of her family. My Boy Jack, based on a true story, tells of a nation at war, and offers an intimate portrait of one family’s complex and divided experience in it. (from the PBS Masterpiece Classics website)

I’ll admit to being a bit leery of the casting of Daniel Radcliffe and Kim Cattrall in this film. At first, it was a bit disconcerting to see a much more mature Daniel dressed in period costume, smoking, and stripping down to his skivvies (and dropping those—though that, obviously, wasn’t shown on screen) for his Army medical evaluation. But he really shows his acting chops in this role and deserves an Emmy or a BAFTA or something for this complete departure from how we’re used to seeing him as Harry Potter. Kim Cattrall, on the other hand, had to fight against type in her role as Carrie Kipling, wife of Rudyard. In her introductory scene, there is quite a bit of Samantha from SATC present, but after that, she did tone it down to where she was almost believable as a woman who would have grown up at the end of the Victorian era.

Now, for the Austen connection. Carey Mulligan (P&P 2005, Northanger Abbey 2007) portrays Elsie “Bird” Kipling, Jack’s older sister. Hers is a bit of a background role, but important none the less, as she confronts her father and makes him understand his responsibility in pushing Jack too hard. And she and Daniel played very well off of each other—I can’t help but imagine that his experience in making this film and working with actors with such wide and varying experiences as they’ve all had only served to strengthen his own skills.

It isn’t until Jack joins the Army and begins to go through training that we really begin to see Daniel stretching his acting wings. Even though with the pencil mustache and in the uniform he initially looks like he’s going to a costume party dressed as Hitler, that impression is overcome by his great acting and the powerful script and story he was given.

My Boy Jack is based on a stage play penned by David Haigh—yes, the same David Haigh who plays Rudyard Kipling in this film, which he also did on stage. The play premiered in 1997 to packed houses and critical acclaim. Now, with its look at how war affected the family of one of the twentieth-century’s most beloved authors, the story takes on even deeper meaning as comparisons to what’s happening currently in the world are inevitable. However, this is not a blatant pro- or anti-war film. It’s a film about family, about loyalty, about duty, about love.

And there’s no doubt about it, David Haigh, whether or not he wrote and executive produced the film, is perfect for the role:


Rudyard Kipling

I really hope you watch My Boy Jack and then come back and leave your comments on what you think of it. I can’t wait to watch it again . . . and again . . . and again . . .

9 Comments
  1. Friday, April 18, 2008 11:33 am

    I’m glad you’re keeping us up to date on the PBS Sunday nights–it’s good for me to have a heads up since I otherwise wouldn’t have a clue.

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  2. Friday, April 18, 2008 2:25 pm

    I’m so happy to hear that this is a good production! Looking forward to Sunday night!

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  3. Paul permalink
    Sunday, April 20, 2008 11:16 pm

    Tough for me to admit it, but I was in tears by the close of this exceptional presentation. I’m about to order the DVD for my friends who in the past refused to watch Masterpiece Theatre.
    Three cheers for Daniel!

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  4. Monday, April 21, 2008 6:53 am

    I was incredibly, incredibly moved…bawled actually.

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  5. Monday, April 21, 2008 10:23 am

    I didn’t want to give too much away Friday in my review of the film by saying that I cried as I haven’t cried in a movie since I saw Saving Private Ryan. When I watched the last thirty minutes of it again last night, I cried again. And both times, just when I thought I was getting control of myself, when he recites the “My Boy Jack” poem, I was weeping all over again!

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  6. Bob permalink
    Monday, April 21, 2008 11:15 am

    This was totally beautiful. I usually do not get involved in a film so much but I was totally mesmerized by the film… David Haigh just amazed me… why have I not seen anything he has done before… what a tallented and very handsome man!

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  7. Monday, April 21, 2008 11:16 am

    Well done. Daniel Radcliffe and David Haigh were utterly convincing as father and son. I was so impressed with Haigh. He was delightfully engaging and never quite over the top in his portrayal of a man who hasn’t lost his childlike wonder of life, or of storytelling, and who is his son’s most ardent cheerleader. Yet beneath the wonder and the energy and the joie de vivre, Haigh let us see an earnest, intelligent, complex, somewhat emotionally repressed, father and husband, author and thinker. Bravo!

    I didn’t want to cry. I didn’t know the story of Jack Kipling, but I could see what was coming and I really didn’t want to feel that grief. Haigh made me feel it, so I gave in.

    What a complex performance. I want to write such convincing characters.

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  8. Monday, April 21, 2008 7:52 pm

    Finally got my thoughts posted on my blog.

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