One Life is the story of Nicholas Winton (Anthony Hopkins), the British stockbroker who arranged the Kindertransport that saved hundreds of children from almost certain death in the Holocaust and be warned: you will need one tissue, if not two – maybe 12. Which isn’t to say it’s a great film. It’s fine, in its workmanlike way. But the story is so inherently powerful and moving and there is so much goodness and decency at work it will set you off. Take a whole box of tissues if you want to play it safe and would rather not deploy your sleeve.
Directed by James Hawes with a screenplay by Lucinda Coxon and Nick Drake, the film opens in 1988 with Winton’s appearance on That’s Life. If you have never seen that clip, which has been viewed more than 40 million times online, look it up with those tissues to hand. No one had ever heard of him before, as he was the opposite of a virtue-signaller (perhaps a virtue-burier?).
By this time Winton is 78, retired, living with his wife, Grete (Lena Olin) in Maidenhead. (Did he really live in such a modernist gem? He had taste on top of everything else.) He has promised Grete that he will clear out his office by Christmas, which sets him sifting through old papers and the scrapbook he keeps in a battered old briefcase in a bottom drawer. His mind travels back, as we do, to the brink of the second world war in 1938, after the Nazi annexation of the Sudetenland.
Winton, now played by Johnny Flynn, visits a friend in Prague who is helping refugees. Living in makeshift tents they are starving, freezing, dying.