My Boy Jack (2007) or Why Daniel Radcliffe should not be starring in the Remake of All Quiet on the Western Front

This post is about two very different things. A good movie and a bad choice for a cast.

Based on the play with the same name written by the very same actor who is playing Kipling, David Haig, the movie tells us the tragic story of Kipling´s only son who went missing during WWI on the Western front in the Battle of Loos.

For reasons I will elaborate here My Boy Jack was an interesting, touching if a somewhat disappointing movie. Interesting since it showed the famous author Rudyard Kipling in another light and because it depicted the very onset of WWI and Britain’s reluctance to participate in this war at first. The tragedy of the war in the trenches with its enormous loss of lives in a very brief moment (we hear that the first day of the armed conflict cost almost 12000 British lives) is illustrated eloquently.
Kipling is shown as a dominant figure for whom the love of his country comes long before anything else. His values of manly courage and seeking of glory are really off-putting. The whole character is obnoxious. From the moment he knows the war will finally start his sole aim is to have his only 17-year-old son participate.
Unfortunately Jack is extremely short-sighted and without his glasses he is almost blind. The doctors performing the medical examinations do not want him to join the navy nor the army since it would be much too dangerous should he lose his spectacles during battle. His father being the influential and stubborn  man he is pulls every string to have  his son accepted against all better judgement.
Knowing the tragic story we sadly watch the inevitable unfold.
After his initial training and having been appointed lieutenant Jack is sent to France. He gets to know constant rain and shelling, the bleakness of the trenches and the muddy no-man’s-land around them.
After days of waiting his company is finally told they will have to attack.
The fear and anguish of the men who know  by now that most of them will face a certain death is quite touching.
It will be Jacks first and last battle. A few weeks after his departure to France his family gets notified that he’ s been reported missing in action.
What  follows is quite dramatic and good acting. Kim Cattrall (Sex and the City–yes, indeed) playing the mother is very convincing, so are the sister (Carey Mulligan) and David Haig as the father. The family wants to know what happened. Is Jack wounded but alive? Is he dead? Did he suffer? Of course Kipling constantly asks himself if he is guilty. The depiction of their grief and the father’s despair is very heartfelt. It moves you to tears. It is difficult to imagine what it was like to wait more than a year  until they finally had some hints about what had happened. So why was I disappointed? Because I found Daniel Radcliffe absolutely not good.
(To know that he will have the leading role in  the remake of All Quiet on the Western Front is hard to stomach).
He is really not a very good actor. Or maybe not yet. He should have some more qualifications for a role than his age. But actually it is not so much his acting that I criticize than the way he  looks. For me he has absolutely no charisma.
Since the movie in itself is good and knowing that many people are very fond of him as an actor and also consider him great in My Boy Jack, I still suggest you watch this movie. Even more so should you be interested in Rudyard Kipling.

For the interested reader I posted Kipling’s poem about the loss of his only son.  And who likes can also watch the video below and see David Haig render it in the movie.

“Have you news of my boy Jack?”
Not this tide.
“When d’you think that he’ll come back?”
Not with this wind blowing, and this tide.

“Has any one else had word of him?”
Not this tide.
For what is sunk will hardly swim,
Not with this wind blowing, and this tide.

“Oh, dear, what comfort can I find?”
None this tide,
Nor any tide,
Except he did not shame his kind —
Not even with that wind blowing, and that tide.

Then hold your head up all the more,
This tide,
And every tide;
Because he was the son you bore,
And gave to that wind blowing and that tide!

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