If you’re adding film titles to your 2013 must-see list, here’s one to consider: Longford, an HBO drama telling the true story of British Lord Longford, played by Jim Broadbent. I’ve recommended it many times since I first saw it in 2009 and did so again a week or so ago. Few films still have me thinking about them years afterward.
A devout Christian, Longford visits prisoners as part of his spiritual practice. In the beginning, the film shows him in an interview saying that the greatest achievement in his life is visiting and helping prisoners. Then the story begins.
A notorious criminal asks him to visit her, a woman convicted of a heinous crime involving the most vulnerable and precious members of society. They begin meeting regularly, and he helps her over many years in her legal battle. His long-term relationship with her becomes the greatest achievement of his life’s greatest achievement.
Yet his efforts collapse in complete and utter failure. If I told you why it would be a spoiler, yet your guess probably comes close. Lord Longford is devastated and broken, an object of public scorn.
Time passes and he eventually writes a book on another topic. In an interview about this book, the subject of his visits with this prisoner comes up. The interviewer asks him if he regrets helping her. Longford pauses and says no. (Disclaimer: I don’t have a transcript of the film and so this is my memory + paraphrasing kicking in.) He says he is grateful to her. He says that deepening his faith is what his spiritual journey is about and that his experience with her helped him at that. The film doesn’t end there and I won’t say anymore about the plot lest you plan to watch it and think I’ve spoiled it enough already.