Churchill's Secret full movie review - Poor secret
Having recently read biographies of Rab Butler, Harold MacMillan and Anthony Eden, I had a degree of foreknowledge about the events depicted in this ITV drama.
Did I then or now think it warranted a two hour drama, well, no I didn't and having watched it, I think so even less. I looked forward to a behind-the-scenes insight into the political machinations of the time, which saw the news of the P.M.'s stroke blacked out by the media while he made a slow recovery from his illness. In the wings was his long-time second-in-command, Anthony Eden, itching to get into number 10, but, by an unfortunate coincidence, he was also also a recovering invalid from a botched operation carried out abroad.
All I got here though was about two thirds of the time devoted to the Churchill family dynamics as three very different daughters and one hard-drinking son converge on the Churchill country house in Chartwell, with the other third dealing more with the politics culminating in Churchill recovering sufficiently to deliver his party leader speech at the Conservative Party Conference at Margate in 1953.
I found the inter-family drama to be boring and uninteresting. The very obvious point is made that Churchill's personality dominated those of his wife and children as they unattractively find ways to bicker amongst themselves even as their father fights death in the same house. As for the political background, Rab Butler is dismissed as a non-entity, Anthony Eden appears only fleetingly and Harold MacMillan doesn't show at all. Just when you think you're being served up a family melodrama, the film does an abrupt about turn to focus on Churchill's return to health and political action.
What we also get is the creation of a fictitious nurse who is brought in to provide special care for the great man and predictably becomes a lightning rod between the sometimes difficult relationship of Churchill and his wife Clementine. As a device, I found it an unnecessary distraction. There's also a lot of questionable guff floating about too as the ailing P.M. recalls childhood memories in his distracted state concerning the early death of an infant girl-friend which causes him to sing "I'm Forever Blowing Bubbles" on occasion.
I wasn't impressed with the acting either. Martin Gambon looks nothing like Churchill, a difference highlighted all the more as a portrait of the real Winston is for some reason prominently displayed in some scenes and besides barely tries to reproduce his master's distinctive voice. Lindsay Duncan is similarly unconvincing as the wife / matriarch figure Clemmy Churchill and acts like she's permanently sitting on a very sharp pin, while Nurse Appleyard could have walked off the set of "Call The Midwife" so stereotypical is her character. Did I mention the (in)action was slow and ponderous too?
This was thin fare in my opinion and added little to my insight of either the 1950's political situation, the internal workings of the Churchill family or the character of a great man in decline.