One Life, a biopic about Nicholas Winton that partially filmed in Prague last year, has garnered some glowing reviews and awards season buzz following its premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival earlier this month. A stirring finale reportedly drew tears at its press premiere.
Anthony Hopkins‘ performance as Winton, who saved hundreds of Jewish children by arranging their transport from Prague to London on the eve of WWII, has been specifically cited for awards consideration. Hopkins stars as Winton in his later years and during a British TV program in which he is reunited with some of the now-adult children he helped save.
“A solid, traditional British period piece—about Nicholas Winton, a London stockbroker who organized the rescue of nearly 700 Czech children at the dawn of World War II—is given awards-y luster by Anthony Hopkins, who continues his recent streak of sharp, focused performances,” writes Richard Lawson in a Vanity Fair roundup of the best films playing at this year’s fall festivals.
“One Life was one of the big tearjerkers in Toronto, giving other standouts like His Three Daughters a run for their money in the ‘make film critics cry in the middle of the day’ race. The film is about a remarkable thing that actually happened, which is always a benefit where the Academy is concerned. While some people may find the beginning stretches of the film a little slow, its final 20 minutes are a knockout, sending audiences out of the screening feeling awed and inspired.”
“A triumph of equally moving value [to Ellen Kuras’ Lee] was One Life, the amazing true story of Sir Nicholas Winton (featuring another triumphant centerpiece performance by Anthony Hopkins),” writes Rex Reed in his top picks from TIFF for The Observer.
“Many tears were shed in the press preview of this resurrected story and newly relevant film (marking the feature debut of television director James Hawes) about the difference one person can make in a time of global crisis.”
While not all critics were equally enthusiastic, Hopkins performance has been widely acclaimed. Still, One Life has received about as warm an initial reception as last year’s All Quiet on the Western Front, which went on to win four Oscars.
“In some ways, it’s one of Hopkins’ best performances from the last few years, beautifully underplayed, eschewing mannerisms or silly accents,” notes Leslie Felperin for The Hollywood Reporter.
“[One Life] serves as an urgent reminder of the importance of individual action at a time when the world refugee crisis is at a scale not seen since the Second World War,” says Variety’s Alissa Simon.
One Life also stars Johnny Flynn as the younger Winton who helped arrange the transport for hundreds of children from Prague, Helena Bonham Carter (as Winton’s mother Babette), Romola Garai, Lena Olin, Jonathan Pryce, Marthe Keller, Alex Sharp, Samantha Spiro, and Adrian Rawlins.
Production of One Life took place on location in both the United Kingdom and in the Czech Republic last autumn. In Prague, filming took place at the city’s Main Train Station (Hlavní nádraží), which was the actual location where Winton helped hundreds of children leave Czechoslovakia by rail for Britain.
One Life will continue touring fall festivals ahead of its release in UK cinemas on January 1, 2024. A release in the Czech Republic is still TBD.