Train fans should love the first act of The Railway Man, when reserved middle-aged Eric Lomax (Colin Firth) takes the scenic east coast line.
He finds his train talk beguiles the attractive woman sharing his double seat. They share a flirty chat and a flask of coffee, then part – only to reconnect a few days later, thanks to Eric’s knowledge of timetables.
It seems like a fast track to a happy ending, but after the honeymoon Patti (Nicole Kidman) realises her husband remains deeply traumatised by his experiences as a prisoner of war on the Burma Railway.
Firth and Kidman handle their characters with care, playing their anguish and hurt with sympathy and pathos. War Horse star Jeremy Irvine as the younger wartime Eric is also excellent, but The Railway Man is derailed by its clunky storytelling. Australian director Jonathan Teplitzky struggles to finesse some abrupt changes of tone, especially in a film that shifts from sweet love story to wartime trauma and then to revenge melodrama, with Eric seeking a final solution by tracking down his old tormenter, knife in hand.
The whole exercise deserves better than script platitudes and shots of Kidman looking helpless yet lovely.
The best thing that could come out of this rather stodgy biopic is that it may steer audiences towards Lomax’s fine and moving book.
Review by Johnston Press reporter