Following shortly after Mandela’s passing came Justin Chadwick’s biopic, Harriet Large has the review.
Despite not bearing much resemblance to the former South African President, Idris Elba’s mastery of Mandela’s voice and mannerisms allows the audience to be deceived long enough to make the film a realistic portrayal. Many directors have attempted to create a biopic worthy of such an impressive human being, but personally, I think Justin Chadwick’s endeavour is the most successful depiction to date.
Having premiered at the time of his death, there is an undeniable element of melancholic poignancy surrounding this film and as a result, a heightened interest. It traces Mandela’s development from radicalised lawyer to his 27-year stint on Robben Island, and finally as the national symbol of reconciliation.
The most interesting aspect of the film stems from Mandela’s relationship with his wife, Winnie (Naomi Harris). As the narrative develops, the audience bear witness to the progressive decline of their marriage; the result of a lengthy separation and her growing militancy after experiencing horrendous police brutality. In fact, some of the most emotive scenes are based on Winnie’s experiences, including being dragged away from her children and 16 months of solitary confinement. In comparison, Mandela remains restrained and cool-headed throughout the majority of the film, breaking his composure only once on hearing about the death of his son.
At times, it does feel as if Chadwick is simply skimming through Mandela’s lifetime and perhaps the film suffers a little from such hasty direction. Granted it is nigh on impossible to document such a fascinating life in a reasonable viewing time, but I must admit I, like many others I’m sure, was forced to follow my viewing with a more in-depth guide to Mandela’s struggle against apartheid, courtesy of the Internet.
Still, this is a beautifully made film with exceptionally talented acting from both Elba and Harris and for those in search of an interesting, albeit brief, insight into the life of this saint-worthy man, it is definitely worth a watch.