Save the Children


One Life, the sympathetic telling of an unsung British hero’s defiance, is hugely compelling, says John Fuller

Adeeply emotive and moving film, One Life tells the story of Nicholas Winton, a British stockbroker who helped establish the Czech Kindertransport trains to evacuate (mainly Jewish) children from Nazioccupied Czechoslovakia on the eve of World War Two.

In Prague, Winton compiled a list of the children, then returned to London and worked with his mother to gain sponsors, visas and foster families for them, relying on colleagues in Czechoslovakia to escort the evacuees. After eight trains brought these children to safety, a ninth was scheduled on the day that war broke out, never to depart. The film’s narrative covers this 1938-39 period and the late 1980s, when Winton’s scrapbook recording the efforts leads to appearances on the BBC television programme That’s Life and national recognition.

While it contains some artistic licence, it’s a beautifully told story, both figuratively and literally – the plot is balanced and cohesive despite the jumps between timespans, while these eras are marked by discernible visual choices. Shaky camera work and smoky blue-grey tones ensure the earlier period contains a sense of soft-edged memories with a vivid core of time pressure and nervousness. The 1980s segments retain a slightly watery visual quality, but appear brighter and warmer, giving a sense of calmer, more stable times.

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