Ginny’s Review of “My Boy Jack”

My Boy Jack is a film that is ultimately a tragedy and a critique of the war. Rudyard Kipling (played by David Haig) encourages his son to go to war, only to lose him in the end. This is arguably very predictable, and throughout the entire film, it is obvious what is going to happen. But in a way, maybe this is a good thing, because knowing what is going to happen makes the movie a little less sad- and it is a terribly sad story.

Jack (played by Daniel Radcliffe) is initially excused from military service because of his poor eyesight and the fact that he wears glasses. However, Rudyard is prideful and wants his son to fight in the war. He uses his influence in a war propaganda office to have Jack enlisted into a unit. His mother and sister are devastated by this.

Jack works hard, constantly practicing his shooting, working out, and moving up as a lieutenant. He is excited about leading a platoon. A part of the film that is very historically interesting is when Jack asks the members of his platoon why they joined the war, with varying answers- to see the world, to earn money, duty to King and country, etc. Jack reinforces to the soldiers that they are volunteers, nobody forced them to do this, and that they need to take it seriously. It is so fascinating that the soldiers see this as an adventure, and are not particularly concerned about the dangers.

One of the most striking parts of the film is the unflattering portrayal of the trenches. The trenches are disgusting, and display the reality of the war. The soldiers fight in the rain, suffer from trench foot, and deal with rodents. Scenes of war are juxtaposed against quiet scenes of Kipling’s gorgeous country home, and the contrast has great visual impact. About halfway through the film, Jack visits home and expresses his fears to his father. His father assures him that everything will be alright, which is clear foreshadowing of something tragic to come.

Jack ultimately dies in the Battle of the Somme. At first, his family is told he is missing- while his sister is preparing a care package for him. As soon as this information is received, Kipling’s wife and daughter argue with him about how he should never have let Jack leave, and they enter on a great search for Jack by using their social and political influence. Later, his death is confirmed by a fellow soldier. The scene of the battle and Jack’s death is shown at this part.

Jack’s death is horribly sad because he and his father worked so hard to even get him to fight in the war- and for what? Jack does not receive any glory, he just dies. This serves as a commentary on the war and the masculine pride of the time. I felt that both of the leading actors showed great emotional prowess in their portrayal of these two very complicated men.

The ending is terribly heartbreaking and makes a brilliant cinematic choice. Rudyard recites the poem he has written for his dead son:

“HAVE you news of my boy Jack? ”
Not this tide.
“When d’you think that he’ll come back?”
Not with this wind blowing, and this tide.
“Has any one else had word of him?”
Not this tide.
For what is sunk will hardly swim,
Not with this wind blowing, and this tide.
“Oh, dear, what comfort can I find?”
None this tide,
Nor any tide,
Except he did not shame his kind—
Not even with that wind blowing, and that tide.
Then hold your head up all the more,
This tide,
And every tide;
Because he was the son you bore,
And gave to that wind blowing and that tide.

What makes this particularly tragic is that this is a true story, and the poem reminds the viewer of this, as it is the real poem Rudyard Kipling wrote. This film is not just another war story because it is about someone’s real life experience. While Jack’s death is terribly predictable, it is horribly sad, and serves as evidence that this pointless war took too much from the world. I think it is important to watch this film to experience the real life events and emotions of a World War I soldier and his family. Yes, of course some parts are fictionalized, but Jack was a real person, and his story deserves to be told.

I pledge.
751 words.

175 thoughts on “Ginny’s Review of “My Boy Jack”

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