As Oscar season continues and nominations are posted, The Railway Man staring Colin Firth in the lead role of Eric Lomax, a British soldier captured and held as a prisoner of war by the Japanese after the surrender of troops in Singapore, fails to register a nomination.
It was not deemed to have reached the necessary heights in any of the categories of acting, direction or technicality. However when it comes to delivering a message, it stands head and shoulders above all rest!
The story is one of redemption and forgiveness. Without wishing to run too much of a spoiler for the film, Lomax’s story is well known.
As a prisoner held in the work camps building the notorious Burma railway, he and his comrades are discovered to have built a radio. When caught, the small group are interrogated and in an incredibly brave gesture, Lomax confesses to being the builder, to save his comrades from torture. He is tortured ruthlessly about the radio and his answers are translated by one of the interrogators Nagase.
Lomax survives the war but is haunted by his memories. He clearly suffers from Post War Stress Disorder, but there was little recognition, treatment or support. Days are difficult and his nights filled by horrendous nightmares. Lomax’s intense loathing is saved for Nagase, his principle tormentor, and he dreams of revenge.
Fifty years later having been given a cutting of a Thai newspaper, he discovers that Nagase is still alive, returning to the camp to lead tourist groups in a “pilgrimage” each year. Lomax goes to Thailand to trace Nagase and gain his revenge.
They meet and when Nagase recognises Lomax, he fears the worst…. And it is here that the story turns from the anticipated outcome to one of Human redemption. Lomax confronts Nagase threatening to kill him, but gradually recognises that Nagase has also suffered. He realises that war and the predicament, forces men do unspeakable things to each other.
Nagase apologises and in Lomax’s second courageous gesture, he forgives his tormentor. Once reconciled, the two men became close friends. Nagase continued to go on his pilgrimages and Lomax returned home to his beloved wife and a happier life.
If there was an Oscar for best life affirming story – it would be a guaranteed winner.