The Railway Man

Film Reviews

Ghoshen reviews a movie that culminates in forgiveness and healing.

The Railway ManI remember Osho’s saying, “Turn your poisons into honey.” Probably most of us have worked on our poisons – all those hurts, embarrassments, punishments, slights, criticisms, insults – applying lots of Dynamic meditation and other means of catharsis. The process makes us very aware of our “emotional baggage” and it is easy to imagine that we carry a weighty sum of it but, almost certainly, what we have is nothing compared to that of Eric Lomax.

Lomax was an English soldier taken prisoner by the Japanese in WWII and forced to work on the Burma Railroad (see “The Bridge on the River Kwai”). He was tortured repeatedly but survived, made it back to Blighty when the war ended, and became a train nut! (A train nut? Yes, one of those delightful, awfully British characters who can recognize the exact model of a locomotive half a mile off, tell you the best set of connections to make for any rail journey, and know which station “Brief Encounter” was filmed at.) Decades later Lomax married and his wife happened by chance to learn that Eric’s torturer, who might well have been executed as a war criminal, was alive, living in Thailand and running a “Burma Railroad” museum for tourists. “The Railway Man” tells the story of Lomax’s time as a POW, his meeting his wife (on a train, of course) and his confronting his nemesis after all those years.

One might well assume that Nicole Kidman was cast as Lomax’s wife only for marketing reasons. One might even suppose the same could be said for Colin Firth who plays the man himself but I would contend that this role needs a consummate actor and few others could play it as convincingly. Anyway, they are both great and, I fancy, Firth could easily be in line for more awards. The movie does have a few flaws however. For one example, the ages of certain characters seem wrong. For another, Stellan Skarsgård plays Eric’s closest mate, someone who was a POW with him; he looks the part and acts it splendidly – except that he cannot (or at least does not) disguise his Swedish accent! But the bottom line is that, in spite of these and some other shortcomings, the movie tells its tale in a profoundly convincing way. The reason for Lomax’s torture was that he dared to build a radio so that he and his fellow prisoners could find out how the war was progressing in the outside world. This was strictly a receiver but the Japanese somehow believed it was a transmitter. Curiously perhaps, the most unbelievable thing in the film is one that’s a matter of historical fact: that Lomax and his friends actually managed to purloin sufficient electronic parts in a jungle camp to build this radio.

Ever since a bunch of friends of mine were caught up in the Mumbai terrorist attacks of 2008 and two of them were killed, forgiveness has been a big focus both for the survivors and for me. It may be giving away a lot to reveal that the film’s ending is about forgiveness but this is what makes “The Railway Man” not just a fine movie but, I am tempted to say, a must-see for anyone interested in healing and forgiveness. If it were fiction, it would seem too fictional. It is the fact that it tells a true story, and does that so well, that makes it deeply moving and powerful.

Review by Ghoshen, Osho News

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