By Tamar Dutton
Even before entering the cinema, I knew this was going to be a harrowing watch. Having first come across this intimate First World War drama when I was a youthful GCSE student, the intensity of this play, and the skill with which R. C. Sherriff portrays the experience of a small infantry company awaiting the famous ‘Operation Michael’ (a German offensive which took place towards the end of the War in March 1918), were not lost on my innocent mind. So when I overheard the cinema attendant telling a group of young women that he had been disappointed with the film, due to the lack of multiple storylines and violence (he obviously hadn’t seen the play), I was sceptical over whether or not Fluidity Films, along with the English director Saul Dibb, had done it justice.
I can confidently say the attendant could not have been more wrong. From the very beginning, you were transported to the dark, desolate trenches of Northern France through the simplistic but impactful cinematography. The use of sound is another forte of the film, being used to create great suspense, whilst also knowingly using silence to create a feeling of impending doom. Although the cast was small and all scenes were set within the very limited space of a bunker and a trench, one was not aware of any limitations to the overall story and its impact. The acting was stellar, with a particularly moving portrayal of the miserable alcoholic Captain Stanhope, played by the talented Sam Claflin. Along with Toby Jones (Mason), Asa Butterfield (Raleigh) and Paul Bettany playing the fatherly ‘Osborne’, I was unable to critique their wonderful portrayals of these well-written characters. Their ability to convey fear, along with the infamous British ‘stiff upper lip’ should be applauded. The finale of the movie was particularly heart-wrenching, with each character exclaiming ‘Cheerio’ before entering the bombarded trenches. In spite of this sombre subject matter, believe me when I say it’s worth the emotional rollercoaster.
After an hour and forty minutes viewing, you will have experienced despair, empathy and great admiration. This film does great justice in portraying the difficulties faced on the western front, not only physically (there is A LOT of mud and rats the size of house cats), but mentally also. It leaves the viewer questioning at what price the men and women had to pay to win The War. On the day of its premiere, the leading star Sam Clafin declared on his social media that he hoped this film would encourage today’s veterans to speak up and start a conversation about their mental health. Any form of art that encourages kindness and a better understanding of mental health should be appreciated. But the fact that this movie is also beautifully shot and acted out makes it even greater. Overall this adaption of the classic play is a great success, and deserves its four-star rating from The Times, The Telegraph and Total Film.
Movie lovers tip: If you enjoy the cinema, join Young Tyneside Members for free. The Tyneside Cinema is a gorgeous, independent cinema in central Newcastle that charges young adults (ages 15-24) £4.50 for any cinema ticket. What a bargain! The seats are pretty damn comfortable and their license to sell alcohol made my experience of Journey’s End even better, if that was at all possible.
Photograph: Andy Powell via Flickr