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Graham Holt is a lonely middle-aged man who runs a postal substation in a small village in England. He decides to adopt a son. James is the troubled youth he gets with the assistance of social worker Debbie. James has been in an orphanage for years since his mother committed suicide. He adores his outlaw father John, sent to prison not long after the mother's death. Can James learn to love Graham? Can Graham settle for being second best?Written by
This is an exquisitely poignant tale of a love-starved, troubled orphan boy and an emotionally incomplete man who has decided to reach out for what he wants most in life: a son. Jamie very much wants to love the kind man who wants to adopt him but is prevented from doing so by the promise he made to his biological father just before dad went to jail: to love him "best in the whole world forever." In what may just be the greatest dramatic performance by a child ever captured on film (surpassing even that of Freddie Bartholomew in "Captains Courageous" who had held that title for that past 60 years), Chris Cleary Miles demonstrates a precocity which makes one wonder if he hasn't already overcome some great tribulation(s?) in his short life in order to give such a compelling performance. Alternately masochistic, loving, violent and affectionate, the range and depth of emotion he portrays are nonpareil. I am still having trouble believing it was only a movie! It is unfortunate that Miles never acted in another movie; on the other hand, when you start at the top you can only go down.
Others have called this William Hurt's greatest role and I would have to agree. While his transformation from the stiff, detached loner to loving father was beautifully written in the book by David Cook, Hurt interprets this flawlessly. In fact you might say the film's brilliance was relatively easy on the heels of Cook's depictions. Nevertheless every scene in the movie is significant and the editing with the multiple flashbacks was excellent. Why this film did not win all kinds of awards is beyond me.
"Second Best" is second best to none in its genre.
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