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Second Best

movie reviewmovie reviewvideo review out of 4 Movie Review: Second Best

Starring: William Hurt, Chris Cleary Miles
Director: Chris Menges
Rated: PG-13
RunTime: 105 Minutes
Release Date: October 1994
Genre: Drama

*Also starring: Keith Allen, Prunella Scales, Jane Horrocks, Alan Cumming, John Hurt, Jodhi May

Review by Steve Rhodes
2½ stars out of 4

SECOND BEST is about a 42-year old Welsh man (William Hurt) who has never been married and has hardly ever even had a girlfriend. He decides to adopt a boy, but being a single man, he is told that he will only be offered older boys who are mentally disturbed.

A 10 year old boy (Christopher Miles) comes to live with him in his tiny Welsh village where he is the postmaster and local grocer. As promised, this boy is troubled. He comes from a LORD OF THE FLIES sort of past, and his Dad (Keith Allen), whom he loves dearly, has been in prison for a long time. He and his Dad made a pact, before his Dad left to go to prison, to love each other more than anyone else forever.

The show happens as much in the past as in the present and tells not only the boy's past but Hurt's as well. The interest in the show is provided by Hurt's character more than the boy's although the script was written, I think, to have the movie center around the boy.

Hurt plays a repressed man who looks at the world as if he is scared to venture into it. The scenes where the boys trashes his house and he just stares without speaking were a bit much even for his withdrawn character. I did not buy these scenes. On the whole though, Hurt plays it very convincingly, and you feel really sorry for him.

The main problem in the show for me was the casting of the boy. He was supposed to be an enigma, but he carried it overboard. During most of the movie it was hard to understand anything at all about what the boy was feeling and hence hard to empathize with him. The director (Chris Menges) should have realized this and given him better guidance.

All of the minor characters were quite good except the role played by John Hurt (no relation to William) which seemed to be out of another movie. My favorite minor character was Jane Horrocks's portrayal of the social worker. She was the only funny character in the movie and every one of her lines was a riot. I wish her part had been made larger. Given that everyone loved her in LIFE IS SWEET whereas I hated her in it, I was surprised myself at how enchanted I was with her acting in SECOND BEST.

Just watching the movie may make you want to move to the serenity of Wales - lovely cinematography (Ashley Rowe). On the other hand, it may scare you away from ever adopting a troubled child. A lot of the movie was either sad or disturbing because of the subject matter.

Copyright 1994 Steve Rhodes

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