This was the second film we have seen this year and like the first, American Hustle, this too is based on a true story. Though in this case the film is a lot more faithful to the story than American Hustle. The Railway Man is the story of Eric Lomax, one of the survivors of captivity, torture and forced labour at the hands of the Japanese during the second world war. The film though starts in the early 1980s with a love story. Lomax, by now retired, has a chance meeting on a train with Patricia(Patti) Wallace and falls in love with her. They get married and everything seems idyllic. Until Lomax starts to have nightmares and refuses to tell Patti anything about the cause of these outbreaks. At this point in the film we begin to get flashbacks to Lomax as a young soldier and his captivity and his ordeals. Patti though is a tough cookie and determined to help her husband. Eventually she succeeds and Lomax is persuaded to confront his personal ghosts. He does this by going back to the scene of his torture. There he meets up once again with the Japanese soldier mainly responsible for his suffering. At last we get to see some of the horrific torture that Lomax was subjected to, as he finally relives this experience in a face to face encounter with his torturer. In a moving scene Lomax finds the strength to forgive. An act which in its own way releases Lomax from his internal sufferings. This forgiveness is completed when Lomax, this time with Patti, again returns to meet his former torturer and they exchange letters of forgiveness.
The film is wonderfully shot to bring out the contrast between Lomax’s two lives. The gentle ordinariness of his life in the UK whether in Veteran’s Clubs, or in his own home, or out on the beach with Patti, and the oppressive heat and piles of suffering humanity in his Japanese prison. The film slowly builds up to its climax, allowing us to gradually take in the enormity of Lomax’s suffering through flashbacks. The cast is excellent with a stand-out performance by Colin Firth as the older Lomax. He is of course the central figure in the film, though ably supported by the rest of the cast. Jeremy Irvine gives a fine performance as the stoical young Lomax. An almost unrecognizable Nicole Kidman has to play second fiddle to Colin Firth, but nevertheless she convincingly portrays Patti as the loving and determined soul mate. Very good film which combines a love story with the power of forgiveness.