Essentially a reprise of Slovak helmer Matej Minac’s 2002 Intl. Emmy-winning docu “The Power of Good — Nicholas Winton,” but with a surfeit of dramatic re-creations, additional interviewees and an over-the-top grand finale with hundreds of schoolchildren waving lighted mobiles celebrating good deeds, “Nicky’s Family” retells the story of “Britain’s Schindler,” Nicholas Winton, now 101 and still healthy and active. Providing a valuable albeit overproduced history lesson, the conventional but inspirational pic will be ideal for classroom use following fest and broadcast exposure.
In December 1938, Winton, then a 29-year-old London stockbroker, visited Prague and launched an organization to rescue Jewish children in imminent danger of deportation. Before WWII was declared on Sept. 1, 1939, he masterminded seven rail-sea transports, bringing 669 Czech and Slovak youngsters to host families in Great Britain.
With Canadian journalist Joe Schlesinger, one of the rescued children, again taking narrator duties, Winton’s scrapbook (which lay collecting dust in an attic trunk until it was discovered by his wife in 1988, at which time his good deeds were finally made public) serves to introduce the interviewees via youthful photos. Now living all over the world, these men and women relate their memories, sometimes to classrooms of school children, but mostly in voiceover, as period newsreel footage, archival photos and melodramatic re-enactments illustrate the era.
There’s minimal new footage of Winton, who remains characteristically modest despite having received a knighthood from Queen Elizabeth and a Nobel Peace Prize nomination for his humanitarian work. Discussing the death of his beloved wife, Grete, he notes, “Everybody says that after a time things will get better, but it’s not true, they get worse. Instead of living, you just exist” — a comment that reps a poignant contrast to the lives of the rescued children, most of whom lost their entire families in the Holocaust, and carried on to become, among other things, noted scientists, engineers, teachers, entrepreneurs, politicians and writers.
While “The Power of Good” offered extended discussions with the rescued children and achieved much of its impact from showing their emotions, particularly as they recalled their parents’ sacrifice in sending them away, here the overuse of dramatization seems trite at best. The most affecting moments are retreads from the earlier docu, such as when Winton appears in the studio audience of Brit TV show “That’s Life” and finds himself surrounded by rescued children.
Pic’s last third focuses on the ripple effect from Winton’s act of courage, as grandchildren of the rescued children and other young people describe their efforts to help others, and schoolchildren in Prague pay tribute to Winton at a gala musical event.
Apart from a saccharine, overused score, tech credits are slick, with cutting (the result of reportedly more than 4,000 hours in the editing room) particularly deft.
An end-credits title notes that only 261 of the 669 rescued children have made themselves known.