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!


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

  1. […] All Quiet on the Western Front (1930) (see my posts on Remakes and Daniel Radcliffe) […]

  2. MANU DE CANCK says:

    Hello, I’m Manu and I live in Ghent, Belgium. I’m interested in history, also very much in military history. Quite by accident, I just happened to watch “My Boy Jack” as it was broadcasted here on Flemish television an hour ago. You’re definitely right, this movie really makes sense and I was really moved by it. Heartbreaking and good actors.

    I know who Kipling is, off course, and many Flemmings do but this story is pretty unknown out here in although we live nearby the famous “Flanders’ Fields”!
    About Radcliff I guess we’re so familiar with the Potter-looks that probably we tend to keep him there. To me anyway, he did a great job. I even didn’t recognize him at first! But I’m not a real expert in the field of movies, so…
    Nice site you’ve got and keep it up, I’d say!

    • Hi Manu, thanks for visiting and for your comment. Maybe I was a bit harsh regarding Radcliffe. I still remember almost every detail of this movie. It is very good. I always had a particular interest in WWI. Did you ever watch Regeneration? Very good. I reviewed it a while back. I have read some of Kiplings books but did not know what happened to his son either. It’s hard to imagine how he must have felt when he lost him. I have been in Brugge/Bruges and Bruxelles but would like to visit some of the former battlefields and cemetaries. Do you know of any Belgian movies on WWI? Would be interesting.

  3. […] My Boy Jack (2007). The movie tells the true story of Rudyard Kipling’s son Jack. The story is exemplary. Misguided patriotism makes Kipling push his only son who is very illfitted and as visually impiared as a mole to join. At first I had a problem with Daniel Radcliffe as Jack but other than that this is an excellent and very emotional movie. And so heartbreaking. Tissues might be needed. Review […]

  4. Chesney Walters says:

    Have to disagree. I think Dan Radcliffe did a fine job; he is an excellent actor and has a great future. I think your view may be a little skewed because you carry Harry Potter in your mind. Radcliffe was 18 when he made the movie, the age of John Kipling. Having been a young lieutenant once myself, I thought his performance in front of his new platoon was absolutely brilliant. Brought back memories. How he played it in the barracks in training, that is how it is. His pride when he scores high on shooting – spot on. Can’t comment on the trenches as I wasn’t there! Regards, Ches

    • Thanks for your coment. I have a feeling that if I watched it again I would be far less critical of him. I just saw him in The Woman in Black and thought he did a fine job. When I watched My Boy jack, I had Harry Potter in mind and that did interfere with my watching.

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