Well. You know how sometimes you watch a film, expecting that you will quite enjoy it – it might be a nice way to pass a couple of hours – and it totally exceeds your expectations, and eats into far more than a couple of hours, because you can’t stop thinking about it? This is what happened to me when I watched this film.
It tells the story of politician William Wilberforce as he moved through Parliament in a determined effort to get the British slave trade abolished. While he had some loyal friends and colleagues, they faced an uphill struggle as many politicians favoured the slave trade and considered it a necessity. Together with his friend, prime minister William Pitt the Younger, Wilberforce never gives up in his efforts.
I cried throughout much of this film, because it was so incredibly moving, and ultimately uplifting to see people determined to create a kinder and better world. Wilberforce was played brilliantly by Ioan Gruffudd, who perfectly captured the man’s intelligence and integrity. Benedict Cumberbatch was also excellent as Pitt, and the supporting cast contained many acclaimed actors. I liked Rufus Sewell as abolitionist Thomas Clarkson, and Albert Finney and Michael Gambon both showed off their extensive skills as respectively, John Newton who used to be involved with the slave trade himself, and was now filled with guilt; and Charles Fox, a politician who initially disagreed with Wilberforce, but subsequently came to support the abolition. Romola Garai played Wilberforce’s wife Barbara, and was lovely in the role.
I keep finding myself thinking about this film – it was beautifully filmed and very emotional. The scene when former slave Olaudah Equiano, played by Youssou n’Dour, shows Wilberforce around a slave ship, and Wilberforce sees with his own eyes the mistreatment and abuse that the slaves suffer, stunned me. Although I knew about Wilberforce’s campaign, and the eventual outcome prior to watching, I still found myself on the edge of my seat at parts of the story.
I would highly recommend this film (in fact I almost want to insist that you watch it!) It tells such an important story, and if anyone ever doubts that they can make a difference, or thinks that their efforts aren’t worth it, this film tells the story of a man who can remind us just what can be achieved with hard work and determination. Wonderful. (And I have ordered an autobiography of Wilberforce – this is the kind of film that makes me want to learn more.)
Year of release: 2006
Director: Michael Apted
Producers: James Clayton, Jeanney Kim, Duncan Reid, Patricia Heaton, David Hunt, Terrence Malick, Ken Wales, Edward Pressman, Mark Cooper
Writer: Steven Knight
Main cast: Ioan Gruffudd, Romola Garai, Benedict Cumberbatch, Youssou D’Nour, Albert Finney, Rufus Sewell, Michael Gambon, Nicholas Farrell